Nigeria face her biggest test yet at the Total Africa Cup Of Nations when they take on Algeria in Sunday’s huge semi-final clash at the Cairo International stadium.
The Super Eagles saw off the challenge of Burundi and Guinea in the group stages before taking out the defending champions Cameroon in the second round.
They continued their fine run last Wednesday when they defeated perennial rivals South Africa in the quarterfinal.
Although their performances so far have been super impressive, they will face their biggest challenge in the semifinal when they take on Algeria.
The Desert Foxes have arguably been the best team in this competition so far beating the likes of Senegal and Ivory Coast. They are the highest-scoring team in the competition and have only conceded just a goal so far which shows they are a well-drilled team.
Djamel Belmadi has received praises from many quarters over the way he sets up his team and their slick style of football. Led by Manchester City star, Algeria have displayed the finest attacking football in a competition that has seen most teams play drab and boring tactics.
It’s no surprise that they are the leading scorers in the competition with ten goals and that leads to the question of how Super Eagles should approach the game.
While Super Eagles have lost just one game in the competition, they have come in for criticism with the way they win matches. The team’s gaffer Gernot Rohr has been criticised for his conservative approach to games.
The former Burkina Faso manager favours solidity over attacking freedom and that showed in the team’s result at the tournament. Aside from the game against Cameroon that the Super Eagles scored the three goals, the highest they have managed in a match is two against South Africa.
And it is important to point out that they scored multiple goals in these match because of the situation where they needed to get the win. Rohr is a manager who prefers his team to defend a one-goal lead instead of going out to score more.
However, while Rohr’s approach may not go down well with fans, it may be what the team needs to defeat a slick Algeria side. An attacking approach may be counterproductive as they do not have the personnel to take Le Fennecs at their own game.
The Desert Foxes players swift transition will be difficult for the Nigerian team should they decide to go all out an attack. But Rohr could hinder their style by going for graft and rigidity in the middle of the park as that’s were Algeria are dangerous most especially with Mahrez running around the rings.
The former Bordeaux manager can go for a midfield trio of John Mikel Obi, Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfried Ndidi which means there will be no space for Alex Iwobi in the starting line up.
Although he has also come under fire for his performances at the tournament, Mikel returning to the starting line up will bring calmness to the Eagles midfield which will be vital against a fast Algerian side.
However, he should not be deployed in an advanced role as he was in previous games. Etebo should be deployed in the advanced as his ability to run with the ball and work rate will be vital both in the final third and defensive positions.
Mikel and Ndidi as the two defensive midfielders will have the job limiting Riyad Mahrez threat. Defensively Rohr does not need to change anything. The German tactician may be tempted to bring in Ola Aina back in from Jamilu Collins but it is not something needed. Collins is a natural left-back and better defensively which will be key against the likes of Adam Ounas.
Going forward, Rohr will also need to stick with the same frontline that played against South Africa. The pace and trickery of Musa and Chukwueze will be key especially when the Super Eagles hit the Fennecs on the break.
Nevertheless, it is not guaranteed that this approach will give the Super Eagles a victory, but it will give them a chance as opposed to matching Algeria style for style.