AfricanFootball.com identifies three problem areas for Samson Siasia’s team, which could derail Nigeria’s chances of reclaiming Olympic Gold in Rio in August.
HIGHLIGHTS MEXICO 1 NIGERIA 0
TACTICS, WHAT TACTICS?
Tactics have never been Samson Siasia’s strongest suit and that was why his Dutch sidekick Simon Kalika.
And now without Kalika, this shortcoming is clearly being exposed.
Flying Eagles coach Emmanuel Amuneke twice won the war of tactics when they faced the U23s in challenge matches.
The Olympic team complained they were not fully represented when both teams first clashed and the U20s ran away 2-1winners, but they certainly ran out of excuses when they paraded a team led by skipper Azubuike Okechukwu and boasting the likes of Oghenekaro Etebo, Usman Mohammed, Taiwo Awoniyi, Godwin Saviour and Stanley Amuzie, yet still lost.
Player for player, the Olympic team had more quality, but again they were outsmarted and outgunned by a more organised Flying Eagles team, who made the most of their team play and youthfulness.
The absence of injured Segun Oduduwa in the heart of the defence of the Dream Team has continued to be a big bother for Siasia.
Despite his rawness, Oduduwa was the man who took responsibility in the back four.
Former skipper Erhun Obanor is slow and clumsy to do so in the absence of the Nath Boys of Lagos star.
Against Mexico on Sunday, the team experimented with Turkey-based Saturday Keigo and the versatile Ndifreke Effiong as centre-halves.
That may well explain why Siasia has insisted on central defenders and full internationals Godfrey Obaobona, Kenneth Omeruo and William Troost-Ekong for Rio.
Fullbacks Stanley Amuzie and Sincere Seth are fantastic going forward, but they will need to first take care of their primary business of defending the goal than surging forward to join the attack.
SCORING GOALS STILL A MAJOR CONCERN
With a settled midfield combination of skipper Okechukwu and Usman Mohammed coupled with wing play of Stanley Dimgba and Godwin Saviour, the Nigeria U23s are known to create chances upon chances, but putting away these openings has remained a great concern.
Tunisia-based striker Junior Ajayi and later Taiwo Awoniyi scored the goals for the team, but lately they have both struggled to do so.
The slump in form of Liverpool striker Awoniyi, for one, has been most disturbing a year after his goals won Nigeria the U20 African championship in Dakar, Senegal.
It was hoped Watford striker Odion Ighalo will solve the team’s goal-scoring problems, but his English club will not release him for the tournament, so too another viable option Kelechi Iheanacho from Manchester City.
Why wasn’t Victor Osimhen considered on the 35-man provisional squad?
Ezekiel Imoh and AS Roma front man Sadiq Umar could well be the strikers Siasia will now rely on for the goals on the way to Gold in Rio.