Feyenoord’s Cyriel Dessers scored his first-ever goal in the green-and-white colours of Nigeria, but a William Troost-Ekong own-goal condemned the Super Eagles to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Mexico on Sunday.
Below are the significant observations from the Super Eagles’ first match since missing out on the party to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Jose Peseiro loses the first game again
The Portuguese manager would have loved to start his Super Eagles tenure positively, but El Tri were not in the mood to grant favours.
It is a worrying de-ja-vu for Peseiro, having also lost his first match in charge of the Venezuelan national team – his last assignment before his hiring by the NFF.
Colombia thumped Peseiro’s Venezuela 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier that day. The 62-year-old never recovered from that loss, winning one of the next nine matches before being booted out of the role in August.
Bassey is not hyped enough
The young defender played as a wing-back against Mexico and was easily the best player in an Eagles team that looked rusty early on and struggled to keep up with the pace and movement of the Mexicans throughout.
Bassey is perhaps the most talked-about footballer in Scottish football at the moment after his exploits in the Premiership, the Europa League, and the Scottish Cup.
And after producing another decent performance on the international scene, it is obvious even to his harshest critics that the young lad is the real deal.
It is little wonder that the Leicester City academy product has been linked with a move to Chelsea and Bayern Munich.
And as Chelsea are set to say goodbye to a few defenders in the summer, indeed, there is no better time for the Blues to go in for one of the most talented, most versatile young defender in the game.
Consistent club showing will lift Uzoho to the next level
If Bassey is not going home with the Eagles’ best player prize, Uzoho would, as the Omonia Nicosia shot-stopper shone like a million stars on the Texas skyline.
Save after save, the former Deportivo la Coruna goalie kept the Eagles in the game and regained some of his credibility washed off in the World Cup playoffs against Ghana in March.
There is nothing he could have done to stop both of El Tri’s goals.
There is, however, a potential ten-year rivalry brewing between Uzoho and regular number one gloves Maduka Okoye.
Playing regularly at the club level will likely enhance Uzoho even more. The 23-year-old made just nine league appearances in 32 for Omonia Nicosia in Cyprus.
Mexico remains Nigeria’s footballing nemesis
The Super Eagles are yet to record a victory in six games against the eight-time Concacaf Gold Cup champions.
Mexico are one of 34 teams that Nigeria have faced and never beaten in the history of the game.
But alongside South Korea, El Tri are the only team the Eagles have met on five or more occasions and not claim a single victory.
Two consecutive defeats to the Mexicans suggest they may be a class above the Africans. But will a full-strength Super Eagles have fared better?
Sad we may not see much of Dessers under Peseiro
After an incredible campaign lifting Feyenoord to the Europa Conference League final and finishing as the competition’s top goalscorer, it was pleasing to see Cyriel Dessers grab his first Super Eagles goal on his first start for the former African champions.
Aside from his goal, the 27-year-old was lively, sharp, and confident and could have wrecked more havoc with better service from the midfielders and wingers.
But you just have the feeling that Peseiro will prefer Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis, Union Berlin’s Taiwo Awoniyi, and Almeria’s Umar Sadiq when they become available and he sees them in action.
A brace against Ecuador next week and another excellent display against Sierra Leone afterwards could, however, endear him forever to the heart of the Portuguese manager.
There is Super Eagles quality in the NPFL
Having been much-maligned by former Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr, players in the Nigeria Professional Football League may have sighted a new dawn for them under Peseiro.
Many kudos should go to the players who represented the NPFL well against Mexico early Sunday morning.
Sani Faisal should be pleased with his Super Eagles debut after coming on for the injured Innocent Bonke. Chiamaka Madu showed enough in a few minutes to suggest he deserves more time on the pitch in Nigeria’s next friendly against Ecuador.
But the fan’s favourite on the night was Rivers United goal king Ishaq Rafiu.
Ishaq was a terror with his left foot, unafraid to take defenders on, always looking for the right pass, and ready to take a pop at goal when well placed. It is no fluke that he is the top goalscorer in the NPFL.
He is far from being the finished product, but he has the potential to offer Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze stiff competition on that right flank of the Eagles’ attack.