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The resurgent Eagles

27 June 2014, 12:40 Mohammed Abba-Aji

Football as we know has always been a dynamic game, with tactics evolving to suit variables of distance, speed and time. Strategies that exploit opponents’ weakness and utilizes own strength being revised as counter strategies devised made some of them ineffective. However one element that still remains basic or instinctive in the game is “philosophy”. Philosophy in football is the foundation upon which a team is built, encrypted within its DNA, translated into different styles of play. It is what makes a strategy work for one team and not yield for the other. Teams I believe must have a philosophy in order to achieve consistency, not only during a game but throughout the tournament or league as the case maybe. However, during international competitions coaches ignore personal philosophies and harness strength of teams from talents available to them.

At first glance of the Super Eagles 23 man list, one readily notices that apart from John Obi Mikel who features on an irregular basis in a top club, most players are either from a not too strong league or at a club we’ve hardly ever heard of. With hours before the kick off in Brazil football lovers in Nigeria are filled with enthusiasm as well as anxiety over the teams’ performance. With the last win for the Super Eagles in a World Cup match dating as far back as France 1998 along with recent string of unconvincing friendly performances, one could perhaps reason with the skeptics.

There has been so much concern by fans and sports analyst about Keshi's decision to go with seven forwards and a meager number of five midfielders, prompting agitations from some quarters on his decision to drop Mba who is seen by many as a creative midfielder. While most people acknowledge the ex Eagles captains tactical insight many fail to see him for the pragmatist he actually is. Though players should be allowed freedom to express themselves when required to, it is important that stability isn’t sacrificed for creativity. This might come at a price but effects of such could be mitigated if players are given the roles they are used to.The shortcomings of using Mikel as a playmaker in the team surpass its merit. Though the Chelsea player has enjoyed topflight English football for close to a decade now, his ability to start attacks has been clouded by his vision for breaking them. In simple terms the player has a defensive mentality and therefore cannot be relied upon to create chances and take them as they come.  The squad needs a fast thinking midfielder with the ability to play balls into open spaces to unleash the pace of the likes of Osaze, Moses and Musa. There is no doubt that the absence of a creative of force in the center of the park will be a major blow to the attacking force of team however the answer to this doesn’t lie in “creating” one. The BIG man has a task of not only showing his boys how to play but also how not to play.

From the squad selection one can readily sense Keshi's intent to play with  a 4-2-3-1 formation with Mikel and Onazi as double pivot. The absence of an advanced playmaker makes his preferred 4-3-3 formation a difficult option. A major problem however with his 4-2-3-1 will be the absence of both an established deep lying play maker and a box to box midfielder (though Onazi could play in this role). It would be interesting to see how he finds a way around this as absence of depth in the midfield of this eagles squad could prove costly. Though this Double pivot might not be the “world class” pairing as it might not have the sting of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho or the flare of Xavi and Busquets to it, the aggression of Onazi and the calmness of Mikel is sure to provide much needed balance to the side.

With Emenikes strength and pace, he should be able to play as either the target man for long balls and crosses into the box or as a false 9 creating space for odemwinge playing as a supporting striker. The is no doubt that the dribbling skills and pace of Moses and Musa will on a good day give any defense in the world much to contend with, this will however be of benefit only if  it leads to chances being created.

The centerback pairing of Omeruo and Oboabona has had its moments of trial like every partnership does but yet seems more solid than any other in the team. Echejiles untimely injury might have dealt a huge blow more in the attacking than the defensive sense as his role of wing back will be missed on the left flank. Solidity at the back is as vital as fluidity during attack.

Keshi's boys must have the aggressive mentality exhibited by previous teams that have soared in past major tournaments in order to restore the lost glory of the Super Eagles. For the coming weeks Keshis job will be similar to that of the president, which is to unite the good and patriotic men and women of this country through the power of football and bring back the pride of this once great footballing nation.

“Of all the things that are not important in this life,football probably the most important of them all” Carlo Ancelotti 



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