AFCON: How Eagles can beat or lose to Cameroun - Onochie Anibeze

Posted by GRANDNEWS | 6 July 2019

Super Eagles

Gernot Rohr said his reason for not fielding five players in the match against Madagascar last Sunday was to rest them since Nigeria had already qualified.

 Technocrats would fault that. There are times teams play two matches in a week in Europe. There are times they even play three matches in one week. If the Eagles had a match about three days from the encounter with Madagascar one could appreciate his fears to avoid injuries or burning out the players. But even if that was the cas dropping five regulars was indefensible. In a tournament like the Nations Cup players get better with matches. You have players from different clubs who have probably been together for about three weeks or one month. They blend more with matches. What Rohr did was to break the rhythm or momentum. But he has never impressed in terms of match planning and reading. The weekend the ongoing Nations Cup started I wrote here that I hoped he would make up for his Russia 2018 World Cup blunders. There were flaws I saw in their friendly matches which were not corrected before the World Cup started and I said the Eagles should be celebrated if they reached the second round. They did not. I knew it would be difficult. They could not play as a unit defensively and offensively. Again, Rohr appeared overwhelmed in the match against Argentina and could not read the game to make the right changes. At a time Mikel Obi and Ahmed Musa were completely burnt out and were no longer running. Rohr allowed them until Argentina scored the winning goal and he moved to make changes two minutes to time.

 After we lost to Madagascar, Odion Ighalo, out top striker, complained that he was not getting enough supplies. That wouldn't have been so if they were collective in their approach. It's the same problem I pointed out before the World Cup. But I don't want to delve in the past. We play Cameroun today in the Round of 16. They are one of the strong football countries in Africa, the first to reach quarter finals of the World Cup in Italia '90 where they even beat defending champions, Argentina with their Diego Maradona and only lost to England in a penalty shootout. They have stronger or richer football history than Nigeria, having won the Nations Cup more times than Nigeria did. Actually, three of the five times they won were against Nigeria in the final. It is always interesting to recall history or past meetings in games but what matters is current form. You may argue that the Cameroun we saw in the first round in Egypt looked stronger than the Eagles especially after the awful outing against Madagascar. When we beat Burundi 1-0 and Madagascar played 2-2 with Guinea I told Christian Chukwu who has been monitoring the games in Egypt from his London hospital that the standard Guinea and Madagascar displayed was higher than what I saw of Eagles and Burundi. I was disappointed we lost to Madagascar but I was not totally surprised going by their game against Guinea.

 Does Genort Rohr monitor opponents? I hope he has watched the matches of the Indomitable Lions in the ongoing games in Egypt. I saw in them a very strong, physical side with a lot of pace. They run and they are quick. They move almost with the pace of the ball. But they lack the finesse Eagles have in passing game and individual skills although Eagles made many wrong passes against Madagascar. I attribute this to the discord that resulted from the changes Rohr made. He was wrong. Can he get it right against Cameroun? He has his game plan. I wish it works for us. But based on what we saw of Cameroun, Eagles could be outrun and physically overwhelmed if they don't play many players behind the ball so that Cameroun would not find space to use. Having many players behind the ball will create room for a passing game and breakaways. If they leave space between the midfileders and defenders the game may even be over for us in the first half. Cameroun could muscle them. But when they have many players behind the ball and many players around the ball when necessary they can beat Cameroun. In attacking, they should be collective and that's what having players around the ball when attacking creates. I'm not their coach. I make these points based on what I saw of the two teams in this tournament. I recommend the Cameround/Benin Republic match to Rohr to watch and to see how Benin, without high quality players but with good tactical play, withstood Cameround. Cameroun's coach even gave credit to the bench of Benin for shutting every space in their area.

 Rohr has the players to beat Cameroun but I can't vouch for his tactics. And I hardly see him passing instructions to the players other than urging them on to keep up the tempo without specific instructions on how to do that. I wish all that could change today for us to move on. Goodluck Nigeria.

  • Anibeze, a seasoned sports writer, is Editor, Saturday Vanguard Newspapers


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