The Group stages of Total Africa Cup of Nations going on in Egypt have been concluded and the round of 16 fixtures are now set with the Super Eagles clash against Cameroon standing out.
Nigeria finished second in Group B to earn a date with the five-time African champions who also finished second in Group F behind Ghana.
The two sides have a history in the competition having met five times with Cameroon winning three times to Nigeria’s one while the other match ended in a draw.
The Super Eagles go into the match following a 2-0 loss to minnows and debutants Madagascar in their last group match. The result ensured the three-time AFCON champions lost the top spot.
Super Eagles manager Gernot Rohr came in for criticism from many quarters following the game and there have been rumours he could be sacked if the team lose to the Indomitable Lions.
But the former Bordeaux manager can avoid the P45 if he can fix out a few individual issues that have plagued the Super Eagles approach in the competition.
Most of the criticism that has been labelled against the 66-year old is his selection and tactics. The former Gabon striker has played players out of position and has failed to give some players a chance.
With the game against Cameroon likely to be his final chance, Soccernet takes a look at some changes Rohr needs to make to avoid the sack.
The Defence: The Super Eagles defence were susceptible to Madagascar fast and pacy attackers due to Rohr’s choice of lineup. The German tactician picked a Leon Balogun who managed just 10 appearances in all competitions last season over Kenneth Omeruo who has not only been impressive for the team in this competition but also one of Leganes best players last season.
Balogun’s lack of game time showed in the match against the Barea as it was his mistake that gifted the Malagasy their opener. It was a schoolboy error from the former Mainz defender and it will be in everyone’s best interest if he’s dropped for the round of 16 fixture where there is no margin for errors.
Rohr will need to bring in Omeruo back into the starting lineup especially against a Cameroon side that will be physical in their approach. The German tactician also has the problem of deciding who to pick in the left-back with Jamilu Collins now fit. The former Bordeaux manager confirmed this in his press conference. “He can play now but I don’t know if he can start”. However, with Ola Aina deputising well in his place, Rohr does not need to tweak anything in that position.
The Midfield: Another area where Rohr will have to make a change is in the middle of the park. Captain John Mikel Obi has been ruled out of the encounter and that could be a blessing for the team. The former Chelsea midfielder started the first and last group games albeit in an advanced position. Nevertheless, he was lethargic in the two games slowing down Eagles attack while his link-up pay was also bad. With Mikel out, Rohr will have to play Arsenal star Alex Iwobi in the attacking midfield role with Wilfried Ndidi and Etebo playing the backup. A midfield of that trio means the Eagles will have the drive, strength and creativity that will be needed to beat the Indomitable Lions.
The Attacking Conundrum: Despite boasting of many attacking options, the Super Eagles have struggled for goals in the competition, scoring just twice. Paul Onuachu was selected to lead the line in the first game against Burundi but failed to deliver. Although his replacement Ighalo came off the bench to score the winner, he also struggled in the second game against Guinea.
With Cameroon boasting one of the best defences in this competition, Rohr will need to shuffle things upfront and that may mean a debut for Henry Onyekuru. The Galatasaray striker known for his blistering pace, was Nigeria’s best striker scoring 16 goals in all competitions as the Lions won the Super Liga title. Onyekuru may be the answer to Rohr’s goal-shy team and it is time for him to be given a chance.