Last night, Nigeria finished their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against Algeria in Constantine. The draw extended the Super Eagles’ unbeaten run in the World Cup qualifiers to 36 matches.
A goalless first half full of Algerian attack and 54% Nigerian possession was followed by the second half where John Ogu’s 62nd minute shot from outside the box gave the Super Eagles a 1-0 lead. Brahimi, lucky to still be on the pitch, grabbed the equalizer from the spot in the 88th minute.
With Nigeria already qualified before the game, it was an opportunity to see the fringe players in action especially seeing that some players pulled out due to injuries.
Upfront, Anthony Nwakaeme made his debut for the Super Eagles and was not impressive. Iheanacho was offered a starting berth but started off with tripping on the bumpy Algerian pitch Umuahia Township stadium will be proud of. He stung the goalkeeper’s glove with his freekick. Is he our new direct freekick taker?
Alex Iwobi had a poor 1st half; blame the pitch? He tested the goalie with a left footed shot from outside the box. Etebo featured and John Ogu capped his 13th cap with Nigeria’s only goal. Better than Agu? Should Onazi be worried? Don’t be carried away by the goal. Ndidi had opportunities to convert recovered possession to killer passes but it was not.
Leon Balogun had a shaky start with two unusual accessories – a black mask and the armband. He grew into the game and was very furious about the penalty awarded against Shehu. Ekong was solid. Shehu continued to shine brilliantly alongside Ola Aina on the other flank. The Hull City defender can be our Delap.
Ezenwa featured in his 4th consecutive World Cup qualifier and made a mess of all the crosses into the box. It was a mess. The FC IfeanyiUbah goalie, voted best goalie in the 2017 WAFU Cup, was a shadow of himself in Constantine. Was it the cold? It is difficult to see him the number 1 in Russia.
How did the Algerians agree to miss those two glaring chances? The officiating was not the best – Brahimi should have seen red for his headbutt at Shehu Abdullahi. He later converted the equalizer after a debatable penalty call.
While the Eagles bask in the glory of finishing unbeaten, we must look towards trying out our backup options before the World Cup. Yes, I was happy Nwakaeme, Ogu and Aina had opportunities to shoe what they are made of. Henry Onyekuru’s cameo was exciting for me.
Argentina is next? Will Ezenwa remain in goal? Will Nwakaeme start upfront? Will Kayode have his chance? Will Mikel get his 80th cap?