Despite Kelechi Iheanacho’s superb late strike, Nigeria were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw with Saudi Arabia at the Estadio Municipal De Portimao in Portugal on Friday evening.
Here are Soccernet.ng‘s five takeaways from the encounter:
Jose Peseiro wants to play attacking football
Big kudos to Peseiro, who is trying his best to get the Super Eagles to play attacking football.
Against Saudi Arabia, the Portuguese manager paired Napoli striker Victor Osimhen and Bayer Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface upfront, with the duo flanked by Ademola Lookman and Samuel Chukwueze.
Nigeria created chance after chance in the first half, and were it not for the team’s wastefulness, the former African champions would have scored a couple before halftime.
However, while the team was attack-heavy, it was light in midfield, with Wilfred Ndidi and Alex Iwobi overworked as they sought to outwit their opponents.
Peseiro has to find the right balance between the midfield and attack before the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.
Nigeria’s poor record in friendly games is worrisome
With the draw against Saudi Arabia, the Super Eagles have not won a friendly match since a 1-0 win over Egypt in 2019.
Within that period, the three-time African champions have lost eight of 14 friendly games.
The Eagles can end that horrible run of results when they square up against Mozambique on Monday.
Francis Uzoho is not ready to be the Super Eagles’ number-one goalie
It is clear that the Super Eagles’ goalkeeping problem is not close to being solved after Uzoho’s performance against Saudi Arabia.
The Cyprus-based shot-stopper was at fault for Saudi Arabia’s first goal after making a mess of a direct free-kick.
On the bench for that encounter was Udinese goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, who has not played a competitive game for club and country in over a year.
Hapoel Jerusalem goalie Adebayo Adeleye has also not enjoyed a decent run of matches for the Eagles to inspire confidence, while Peseiro has not shown faith in any NPFL goalkeeper.
The former Sporting Lisbon manager has a major decision to make in the goalkeeping department before the AFCON kicks off in January.
Victor Boniface has to be on the AFCON squad
Victor Boniface was denied his first Super Eagles goal on his full debut after Nigeria’s first goal against Saudi Arabia was ruled as an own goal.
But the Bayer Leverkusen striker showed again that he has the quality and mentality to transform his club form for his country. It would be recalled that he provided an assist on the 6-0 victory over Sao Tome and Principe despite only appearing from the bench for his first run out for the Super Eagles.
While the likes of Victor Osimhen and Kelechi Iheanacho have guaranteed spots in Nigeria’s AFCON squad, it is safe to assume that Boniface has played his way into Peseiro’s heart.
Nigeria are not among the favourites for the AFCON
The draw for the 2023 AFCON was unveiled this week, with Nigeria placed in Group A with hosts Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau.
The Super Eagles should have no difficulty making the knockout round as group winners or runners-up.
But beating battle-ready teams like Senegal, Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt to claim the title could be a tall order for Peseiro and his men.
AFCON-winning teams typically boast one or two great goalkeepers, a stingy defence, a dynamic midfield, and an above-average attack.
Peseiro’s Eagles have only one of these in abundance. Except a miracle happens, an Osimhen-inspired strike force will not be enough to win Nigeria the title at AFCON 2023.