Argentina 2-4 Nigeria: Super Eagles, Alex Iwobi and building on this victory ahead of World Cup 2018

Alex Iwobi Celebrates goal for Nigeria vs Argentina
Alex Iwobi celebrates his goal during Nigeria 4-2 win over Argentina

The Super Eagles of Nigeria were in fine form last night as they came back from 2 goals down to beat Argentina 4-2 in an international friendly played at the Krasnodar Stadium in Russia the host country for the FIFA World Cup 2018.

Watch the full highlights here.

First-half problems for Super Eagles

Missing Lionel Messi, Coach Sampaoli opted for a 3-3-3-1 formation with Sergio Aguero as the main striker with Dybala, Pavon and Angel Di Maria playing behind the Man City striker. This was a familiar formation for the former World champions as Sampaoli played most of their World cup qualifying campaign with 3 at the back.

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Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr used the match to try out a new formation and tactics or maybe he was trying to match the Argentine's firepower with a 5-3-2 formation, which looks more like a 3-5-2 formation when Nigeria is on the ball. Credit to the discipline of the players, trying out a new style against a very organized Sampaoli coached Argentina team is a hard task. Though this is what friendlies are meant for; trying out new formations and players to find a balance before a major tournament.

Image credit: google
In the first 40 minutes of the game, the Argentines dominated the match as they kept possession by playing short passes, Nigeria struggled to match the pace of their passing. Mikel Obi pressed high up the pitch to keep pressure on the Argentine back line with John Ogu and Leicester city's Ndidi shielding the back 5, this brought a lot of pressure on the Super Eagles as they played too deep, when the Eagles have the ball they could not cope with the high press of their opponents

Dybala was finding space in between Leon Balogun and Ola Aina who was playing as the left wing-back, both Nigerian defenders struggled to pick his movement and Di Maria was causing all sorts of trouble for Shehu on the left as the Argentines kept on switching play from one side of the pitch to the other.

Goalkeeper problem

Gernot Rohr's major headache at the moment is how to solve the goalkeeper problem. The Super Eagles' No.1 goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme is currently recovering from leukemia, Ezenwa and Akpeyi have been sharing the goal post but both have not been convincing enough for Rohr. Ezenwa had the upper hand during the later stages of the World cup qualifying campaign but failed to make the number one shirt his own as he was not convincing enough in most of the matches especially the last match of the campaign against Algeria.

Akpeyi had another chance to redeem himself in this game, he started the match while Ezenwa and 19-year-old Francis Uzoho who plays for Deportivo La Coruna in the Spanish La Liga were waiting in line to fight for the shirt. Akpeyi failed to impress, his performance was average, he lost concentration a few times and made a costly mistake that led to Argentina's first goal.

The 31-year-old Chippa United shot-stopper picked up the ball with his hands outside the 18-yard box, the resulting free kick led to the first goal of the match. He could have done better with the free kick as he moved before the free kick was taking by Ever Banega, it was poor goalkeeping at its best.

In the second half, Francis Uzoho replaced Akpeyi as the 19-year-old got his chance, Uzoho was composed in his 45 minutes spell and made a brilliant fingertip save to stop Benedetto's header in the 83rd minute. Maybe just maybe he is the solution to the goalkeeping problem. Fingers crossed.

Alex Iwobi and Ihenacho

Alex Iwobi
is following in the footsteps of his legendary uncle Jay Jay Okocha with his recent performances, the Arsenal attacking midfielder scored twice last night with two brilliant finish.

Iwobi's positional play in the final third is one of his strengths, the way he creates space and finds space in between the lines is brilliant. He knows when to stop and receive the ball, his first goal was something to admire and I would like to see him and Iheanacho play together often. They both have an understanding that is growing, their interplay and movement off the ball is improving.

Rohr seems to have noticed Iwobi's strength by giving him a free role, the fluidity of the team in the second half for the third of the 4 goals was world class. The first goal was a brilliant free kick by Kelechi Iheanacho who picked his spot to beat the Argentine goalkeeper in the first half.

The second goal was down to Iheanacho's hold up play, awareness, and Iwobi’s fantastic movement, the Arsenal midfielder stopped his run and positioned himself at the edge of the box to receive a perfect pass from Kelechi before picking his spot to slot home with just one touch to equalize for the Super Eagles. The 3rd goal was an amazing one-touch football to open up Argentina's defence.

Ahmed Musa also picked up Iwobi at the edge of the box for the fourth goal, the Arsenal player still had much to do, he brilliantly nutmegged Mascherano and picked his spot with his left foot to score a brilliant individual goal.

Debutant Brian Idowu also had a good game as he was instrumental in the second goal and also scored the third, his run into the box from the left wing distracted Argentina's defence for Iwobi's equalizer, while for the third goal, the Russian based player picked his spot well and was calm under pressure. How did he find himself in that attacking position? A Rohr masterstroke? He can't make those runs twice by himself from left wing back, must be the instruction of the coach. But it is one thing to instruct, it is another thing for a player to have the tactical discipline and football brain to carry out the instruction.

Surely, Idowu will get another chance to play again for the Eagles, Ola Aina struggled at left wing-back, Ebuehi was decent on the right. So, we have Echiejile and Idowu battling out for the Left back position.

Read how Nigerians reacted to the victory.


Gernot Rohr is looking like a steal by the NFF, he was underrated after getting the Super Eagles job, he is proving to be a tactician and knows how to organize a good team. He has instilled a winning mentality in this team, coming back from 2 goals down in a friendly match is inspiring, this team spirit will only make them stronger as they prepare for Russia 2018 World cup.

Also, beating Argentina coached by Sampaoli deserves accolades, friendly or not. The former Chile manager is highly rated and Argentina can boast of the best set of players with or without Lionel Messi.

The Super Eagles should continue experimenting with the 3-5-2 as this seems to suit the players, our main men at the moment are Victor Moses, Obi Mikel, and Alex Iwobi.

Victor Moses is one of the best Right wing-backs in the world and he is currently nominated for the BBC African Footballer of the year due to his performances for Chelsea in that position.

Playing a back 3 with wing backs would be perfect for him and he will fit into the team, the combination of John Ogu and Leicester city's Ndidi is also working fine, height and strength with Mikel keeping possession and controlling the tempo. Onazi must fight for his place when he is fit; he is not tactically disciplined and his positioning is poor, he should have worked on been a box-to-box midfielder earlier in his career, he has too much energy to play as a deep-lying midfielder.

Leon Balogun, Troost-Ekong, and Porto Loanee Awaziem struggled earlier on but took control in the second half, hopefully, the Super Eagles can build on this performance ahead of the FIFA 2018 World Cup.

Written by Olusegun Ake

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