Arsenal’s 1-0 loss at Stoke was a bitter pill to swallow with Chelsea and Liverpool winning their games and Manchester City winning the Capital One cup. The news of new deals for Rosicky and Metersacker were received with joy while Bendtner bemoans his lack of chances with the gunners this season.
In comes the FIFA friendlies; with players vying to catch their nations plane to Brazil in 99 days time, these international friendly matches provided an opportunity for the coaches to look at their teams again. Brazil flew to Johannesburg, England welcomed the Danes, Portugal had Cameroun and India hosted their neighbours Bangladesh to mention a few.
Suarez continues to defend his hand of god in that Quarter victory over Ghana in South Africa, the United States were disunited in Ukraine, Ronaldo breaks record, Ozil assists, Argentina plays goalless, France defeats the Netherland, Spain pip Italy, Neymar’s hattrick and his photos with that little boy and blah blah blah. Only one match had my eyes: Nigeria vs Mexico.
Watched by over 68000 fans, the Mexico Nigeria game at Atlanta in the US ended goalles with the following talking points:
The Georgia Dome was characterized by the actions of saves upon saves by the goal keepers of both sides. Francisco Guillermo Ochoa kept the Super Eagles at bay making saves from Emmanuel Emenike and Ogenyi Onazi within the first 12 minutes. Ochoa was on to keep Ahmed Musa from getting to the ball from a through pass. He continued in the second half blocking Ahmed Musa’s shot in the 55th minute.
On the other end, Vincent Enyeama had his own share of saves. A point blank save from a Rafa Marquez’s headed corner kept the scoreline goalless before half time. Enyeama kept out crosses from Chicharito. In the second half, Austin Ejide replaced Enyeama and continued from where Enyeama stopped.
Ejide was on hand to collect the ball that was headed towards goal after an un-cleared corner. The big goalie will have a double save later on from Pulido. Pulido will try Ejide again, but the goalie pulled out a diving save. It was a night for the goalies. Clean sheets
Corners And Threats
The Super Eagles’ first corner kick seemed like a threat to the El Tri defense but the real threat was at the white end of the pitch. All of the 8 corners by the Mexicans were dealt with shaking-ly by the Nigerian defense. 3 of the corners resulted shots on goal but Enyeama and Ejide were equal to the task. The Eagles will need to clear these corners well. They were lucky not to concede from those dead balls.
While the corners threated the Eagles, it originated numerous counter attacks for the AFCON 2013 champions. Unfortunately, they were never converted. Nigeria’s pace was awesome but they faltered in the final third and Ochoa was a wall bigger than that of China. The Eagles created many chances but a touch too much invited more defenders and thus reduce the chances at goal.
Musa’s pace was a threat all night, though his finishing did let him down. His substitution took the bite off the Eagles pace.
Nigerian Debutants and Impressions
Stephen Keshi debuted four Nigerians against the El Tri. 24 year old Michael Uchebo started the game very sharp causing problems in front of the Mexican box. The Cercle Brugge dreadlock-ed striker tired out as the game wore on after running around. Ramon Azeez, Leon Balogun and Imoh Ezekiel were the other three that had their debut against Mexico.
The trio came in the second half at different times but Leon Balogun was unfortunate to be substituted after he fall over the board after contesting for a header. Nigerians will like to see more of 25 year old Leon Balogun the German-Nigeria playing for Fortuna Düsseldorf in Germany. 21 year old Azeez was among the Golden Eaglets of 2009. Imoh Ezekiel plays for Standard Liege. The 20 year old had a shot on goal.
The debutants gave little impression but I doubt any of them will make the final plane to Brazil. It is up to Keshi.
In all, the game was entertaining but sadly goalless.
Waiting for Brazil.