Club football returned over the weekend, but the two weeks before last weekend was all about the international break.
The 2022 World Cup Qualifiers took centre stage across all continents, and Africa was not left out. The second round of qualifying kicked off with the first two games in each group.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles started their campaign with wins against Liberia and Cape Verde to sit in a commanding position in Group C.
The Super Eagles beat Liberia at the Teslim Balogun Stadium 2-0, with Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho scoring both goals.
Gernot Rohr’s men then backed up their win against Liberia with a 2-1 away victory against Cape Verde, even though they were missing many of their regular players.
With the first two games done, Soccernet takes a look at some talking points from Nigeria’s matches.
Fringe players impress
The team started with a comfortable win over Liberia, but there were a lot of doubts going into the second game against Cape Verde as the Premier League players missed out due to the UK’s quarantine rules.
Aside from that, the synthetic pitch at the Estádio Municipal Adérito Sena in Mindelo, São Vicente, was also a concern going into the game.
However, the replacement players overcame all obstacles to stake a claim for more call-ups in future games. The three-time African champions got off to a bad start as they fell behind after 20 minutes of play.
But they were determined enough to come back- although in fortunate circumstances- and claim the win. It would not have happened if not for the performances of players like Chidera Ejuke, Chidozie Awaziem and Kingsley Michael, who made his debut in the game.
Pinnick’s embarrassing gesture
Before the game against Cape Verde, there was controversy over the number of appearances Ahmed Musa had made.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was convinced it was 99, but according to FIFA, Musa had only made 97 appearances.
Nonetheless, the NFF congratulated Musa on reaching 100 appearances after the game. It didn’t end there as following the match, NFF president Amaju Pinnick said the body would give Musa ₦10m for reaching the milestone and also added it would be a tradition going forward.
While there’s nothing wrong in honouring a player for reaching 100 appearances, Pinnick’s is only playing to the gallery with the ₦10m reward.
This is the president of a country’s football association, whose football league is as dead. Yet, he’s dishing out ₦10m to a player that doesn’t really need it.
Pinnick is the worst NFF president we've ever had. It's no coincidence that his reign is also at the same time as Buhari. That man only cares about his image and not the development of Nigerian football. The league is dead, but you are giving a player that doesn't need it 10m
— Oluwajoba (@olumcjobson) September 8, 2021
The players and coaches are being owed a backlog of salaries, but obviously, rewarding Musa with ₦10m is the most important thing.
It’s clear Pinnick only cares about his image and not the development of Nigerian football. To add to the embarrassment, the NFF had to release another statement, saying FIFA is correct regarding the number of appearances Musa has made, meaning he would’ve to wait till the next international break to earn his 100th cap.
The state of the two pitches that the team played on was disappointing, to say the least. However, while the Super Eagles can’t control what happened away from home, they control what happens at home.
The team hosted Liberia at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos, but it was a miracle the players came through unscathed.
It was one of the issues Leon Balogun raised recently. It’s a pity the Akwa Ibom International Stadium in Uyo is now a forgotten venue, even though the players prefer it.
Rohr deserves credit
He may not be everyone’s favourite, but Rohr deserves credit for the result in both games. While the performance was not the best, the result was good.
It means the German keeps his record of never losing a qualifying game since he arrived.
The Super Eagles are on course for the playoffs
The two wins have put Nigeria in a commanding position. The three-time African champions currently lead Group C with six points, three ahead of Liberia.
Depending on results, Rohr’s men could even qualify for the final playoff round if they beat the Central African Republic in a back-back clash next month.