Two days after the Super Eagles had qualified for the 2014 World cup to be held in Brazil, the Nigerian national team had a date with the Azurris of Italy. The Stephen Keshi tutored Eagles had dispacted the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopa 2-0 in Calabar and 4-1 on aggregate to be the 22nd team to book a ticket to the South Americas.
The Italians had Mario Balotelli, Thiago Motta, Rossi and Montolivo with the legendary Andrea Pirlo. Only 4 of the Eagles that played against Ethiopia were in the starting 11 to face the europeans. Nigeria had second choice keeper, Austin Ejide in goal and a back four of Godfrey Obabona, Azubuike Egwekwe, Solomon Kwambe and Benjamin Francis. Ogenyi Onazi and Mikel Obi were the hub in the middle, with Nnamdi Oduamadi, Victor Moses and Bright Dike as the attacking trio spearheaded by Shola Ameobi.
The game was played at frantic pace with the Azurris the faster of the two sides. Balotelli showed his presence and class to control and lay a good ball for Rossi who fired past Ejide. The defenders were caught napping with less than 15 minutes into the game.
2 goals in 5 minutes for the West Africans swung the pendulum their way as Bright Dike nodded in Shola Ameobi’s cross in the 35th minute to make a claim for the final 23 man squad to be selected for the Brazil 2014 Finals. Shola Ameobi showed his class as he scored a superb volley that Balotelli would be proud of.
Speaking of Balotelli, the AC Milan Forward would rue the chances he missed but would also be happy for the impact he played in securing a draw for the Italians. Earlier in the second half, 2 mins after the break, the Italians equalized no thanks to poor defending from the green boys.
The remainder of the game was end to end with Nigeria on the back foot and lacking pace upfront. Ahmed Musa and Emmanuel Emenike had a share of the game late on with Vincent Enyeama coming on after an Ejide injury.
Lessons from the game
- Nigeria need to fix their defensive set up. The Full backs were susceptible and the CB pairing had holes in it.
- Mikel Obi seemed poor and slows the game but that may be excused from fatigue. The date of the match was ill planned with less than 48 hours difference after the Calabar game.
- Ogenyi Onazi cannot be replaced.
- The Eagles need pace and thus maximize our counter attacks else They would not go far in Brazil
- Moses could be too possessive
- The game was exciting and an opportunity for others to make a claim for the 23 man list.
Well, as a Nigerian, I am excited we are in Brazil. We played a good game against Italy. I hope to see more grade A matches.