Five lessons we learnt from Nigeria's performance at CHAN 2018
The home-based Super Eagles are back in Nigeria after their adventure at the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Morocco.
For the first ever, Nigeria made it to the final of CHAN where they were beaten 4-0 by host Morocco.
In the tournament, the Salisu Yusuf men won four games, drew one and lost one. Scored a total of seven goals and conceded six.
These are five things we learnt from the home-based Super Eagles at CHAN 2018.
1. Ikechukwu Ezenwa is going to the 2018 FIFA World Cup
If his 2018 FIFA World Cup place was in doubt, Ikechukwu Ezenwa who was the captain of the home-based Super Eagles to CHAN 2018 has cleared it with his performances.
Before his injury which ruled him out of the final, Ezenwa was one of the best players at the tournament.
He was very comfortable, assuring in between the post for the Super Eagles and the confidence he exudes filtered through the whole team. Against Angola in the quarter-final, the Enyimba goalkeeper was at his best, pulling off saves to keep Nigeria’s lead.
His place in Super Eagles squad to the 2018 World Cup is certain but only Gernot Rohr can decide if he is good enough to start.
2. Salisu Yusuf needs coaching courses
Tasked with leading the home-based Super Eagles to Morocco, Salisu Yusuf made some questionable decisions prior to and during the tournament.
The call-ups for Peter Eneji who was injured and 37-year-old veteran Rabui Ali were befuddling. He also didn’t convince many with his tactics during the tournament. But credit where he is due, he led the team all the way to the final and has to be commended.
In the final, the Moroccans bested the Super Eagles technically and tactically and that’s where Nigeria football is hugely lacking. To work this out, Nigerian coaches need to start going on coaching courses.
The number one Nigerian coach at the moment is Yusuf. He has managed the Super Eagles of Nigeria temporary in the past and is the current assistant manager.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) should start by sending him to top courses in Europe and one by one the other coaches.
That’s why Nigerian football can get better tactically and technically.
3. Dearth of strikers in the NPFL
For the frontline, Yusuf went to CHAN with Gabriel Okechukwu and Anthony Okpotu.
while Okechukwu came from the fringes to scored two important goals for Nigeria, Okpotu, the highest goalscorer in the NPFL last season only managed two goals in six games and missed a host of chances.
The Lobi Stars striker was well criticised but the question is who is better than him in the NPFL?
There is sadly a dearth of No 9s in the NPFL. Okpotu finished as the highest goalscorer last season but he was exposed at CHAN. His runs weren't well timed, his touches were poor and he wasn't creative in possession.
Stephen Odey formerly of MFM FC was the only striker that came close to Opkotu in numbers last season but even the current FC Zurich star can be ineffective when he's not scoring penalties and tap-ins.
4. Stephen Eze has a 2018 World Cup chance
One of the best Nigerian players at CHAN 2018 was Stephen Eze who along with Kalu Orji marshalled the Super Eagles defence.
A man-mountain, the 23-year-old is physically dominating and an astute reader of the game. During the tournament, he completed a move to Bulgarian First Professional Football League side Lokomotiv Plovdiv.
His move to Europe more than his impressive outing at CHAN 2018 would sure put him on the radar for a World Cup place.
Super Eagles boss Gernot Rohr is known to be unapologetically biased towards European-based players. If Eze impresses in Bulgaria in the next five months- add this to his fantastic outing at CHAN 2018- and then he might be a late consideration for the World Cup.
5. CHAN final loss a wake-up call for NPFL
The CHAN Eagles should be commended for their outing at CHAN 2018. Despite their heavy loss in the final, they showed resilience and determination to go all the way.
But resilience and determination were not enough in the final against Morocco. The Moroccans were way technical and tactical in the final.
That’s why the NPFL need to start working on. Talents are a dime a dozen in the NPFL and no one can question them on their determination.
But technically the NPFL have a long way to go and to win CHAN and continental club tournaments, its time to start paying attention to tactics.