By Augustine Akhilomen
It was one of the worst games the Super Eagles players have ever had in the colours of Nigeria as they fell to Bafana Bafana 2-0 in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo on Saturday.
Not the kind of result expected from Nigerians fans who had come to watch the team subdue and gain revenge on their South African counterpart, who on this same venue held the Super Eagles to a 2-2 draw that denied Nigeria the chance to feature at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
However, the scenario wasn’t the case as the Super Eagles struggled to curtail their visitors in terms of pace, possession, skills, tactical and technical approaches.
Sad enough, it was their first victory in a comoetitive game against the Super Eagles, which puts Bafana top of Group E to the delight of their manager,
Stuart Baxter who was recently appointed by the South Africa Football Association.
The 2-0 lose to South Africa could be a welcome development for the Super Eagles ahead of their 2018 World Cup qualifier against current Africa champs, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon on August 28 in Uyo.
Soccernet.com.ng X-ray some of the weak points that was well utilised by the South Africa’s technical crew.
Daniel Akpeyi Had a very poor performance as he failed to deal with some of the few goal scoring chances that came the way of South Africa; most especially the first goal by Rantie Tokelo’s beautiful header, which could have been saved if he was well positioned.
Besides, it was so obvious that the goalkeeping department was a weakness in the team as they missed the services of injured Carl Ikeme, who has always made some unbelievable saves for the team.
The Super Eagles defence that had players such as William Troost-Ekong, Chidozie Awaziem, Abdullahi Shehu and Elderson
Echiejile displayed some level of mismatch, none cohesion and a total misunderstanding of positioning against a well disciplined Bafana attack that knew what to do each time they are with the ball.
On the part of Echiejile, he was always caught off position by the South Africans whenever he overlaps upfront without quickly falling back. Troost-Ekong had a poor partnership with Awaziem as they showed no level of understanding while Shehu was just a passenger on the field. The defence was the causes of both the first and second goal the team conceded.
Lots was expected from the quartet of Oghenekaro Etebo,
Ogenyi Onazi and Wilfred Ndidi but little was offered in that department as they failed to conjure a single pass and as well gave the South Africans a window of openings in the heart of the midfield.
Onazi was a major culprit with his sluggish and unimpressive marking style, losing possession at will without covering up quickly.
As for Etebo and Ndidi, they played below par to the extent that floating of long balls became the order of the day, something unusual for their calibre of players in Europe.
Uninspiring and lacklust despite having the likes of Alex Iwobi who had a quite game, Kelechi Iheanacho, who was not allowed to gain a shot on goal and Simon Moses, whose pace and trickery came to nothing as his final ball was disappointing.
Although the players were fed well with passes from the midfielders as they had to join the midfield in a bid to gain possession of the ball before surging to the 18-yard box of the Bafana. In fact, the South Africa goalkeeper was just on holiday as he had little or nothing to deal with.
Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr would definitely be unhappy with the 2-0 lose against South Africa, however, his technical and tactical approaches let him down.
Preferring to play without a real striker upfront, Rohr decided to use Kelechi Iheanacho as a false 9 due to his pace and ability to convert any half chance that comes his way.
No doubt, his decision backfired as South Africa had a well organised defence and didn’t allow Iheanacho a space to think with the ball. Maybe, the presence of Kayode Olarenwaju and Victor Osimhen would have giving the team some level of attacking bites upfront rather than sticking to his false 9 approach.