The Super Eagles fell to a disappointing 2-0 defeat at the hands of Guinea in their last friendly match before the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire.
Here are five takeaways from the encounter:
No Osimhen, no Super Eagles?
Victor Osimhen scored twice as Nigeria soared to a 12-0 win over Al Gharbia FC, a local team based in Dubai, on Sunday.
Ademola Lookman netted four times in the match played behind closed doors.
Both players were not in the starting lineup against Guinea.
His absence has highlighted a potential dent in Nigeria’s attacking prowess, with the Super Eagles appearing toothless without their key man.
Victor Boniface and Kelechi Iheanacho are injured, leaving Umar Sadiq and Osimhen as the fully fit forward for Nigeria’s opening match at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Has Jose Peseiro picked Nigeria’s best attackers to the party in Cote d’Ivoire when a knock to Osimhen can throw Nigeria’s title hopes into the trash can?
Moses Simon missed a penalty when Nigeria trailed by only one goal.
Peseiro must find the best penalty taker in the team and give him the licence to take responsibility during the Afcon proper.
The inability to convert crucial opportunities might pose challenges in tight encounters.
Addressing this issue becomes crucial as the team approaches the AFCON group stage and possibly the knockout rounds.
Defensive vulnerabilities exposed
Guinea’s goals, especially Aguibou Camara’s early strike, revealed defensive vulnerabilities for the Super Eagles.
Peseiro started the encounter with a three-man defence flanked by two wing-backs. Still, Nigeria conceded the first goal within 15 minutes of the match.
Tightening the backline will be essential as they face formidable opponents in the AFCON group stage.
Francis Uzoho gets the pass over Stanley Nwabili
Nwabili made his debut for Nigeria and conceded twice as Nigeria lost to the National Elephants.
While Nwabili’s performance is not under scrutiny, not keeping a clean sheet strengthens Peseiro’s belief that Uzoho should be number one at the Afcon.
The loss against Guinea prompts the coaching staff to reassess the goalkeeping situation and ensure stability in the crucial position.
Impact of squad rotation
The loss to Zambia is disappointing as the Super Eagles’ week-long stay in Abu Dhabi ends on an unpleasant note.
However, head coach Jose Peseiro’s decision to rotate the squad, resting key players who shone in the training match, might have disrupted the team’s rhythm.
Balancing player rest and maintaining momentum will be a key challenge as Nigeria heads to the AFCON, facing tough opponents in Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau.
As the Super Eagles depart Abu Dhabi for the AFCON in Abidjan, addressing these takeaways becomes imperative for a successful campaign in the tournament.