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At 16:00hrs on 22nd June 2018, Nigeria will play against Iceland. More than enough has been said so far concerning the Super Eagles losing their World Cup opener against Croatia — “maybe Rohr could have done this or that better…”  However, all that does not change the real fact — a match is not won by talks but by good players. There are definitely points for improvements from their last game against Croatia, which clearly saw the Nigerian team play with no team-symmetry whatsoever — the exact same issue that befell the great Argentinian side yesterday, who lost a whopping 3-0 to Croatia.

world cup of surprises

But trust fans to only see the wrongs (though very lucid) the Super Eagles are doing over the glaring problems other big teams of the world have been hit with since the beginning of the World Cup finals.
Portugal drew Spain, World Cup champions, Germany, lost to underdogs, Mexico, Brazil also drew Switzerland.
So far this has been a ‘World Cup of Surprises’ and we’ll have to pull our very own soon if we hope to make it into the knockout stages of the Cup. After the loss to Croatia, a lot of side comments were made concerning the inability of Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr to discern rightly which players get to play where, who gets to start and who should be substituted, with quite a few coming from renowned coaches. One, however, I must say did not bud well with Rohr as he didn’t wait to thrash it out during the Super Eagles’s Wednesday press conference at Essentuki, Russia. Former Chelsea and Mikel Obi’s coach, Jose Mourinho told Russia TV Station, RT:
Mikel is not a No. 10 — he is a No. 6. There was Etebo playing No.6 doing very well and there was also Wilfred Ndidi doing very well playing No.6. Perhaps he (Jose Mourinho) wants us to play with three No.6 and that is problematic. Nigeria’s Obi Mikel has played in the offensive role, giving decisive passes. It was the same organisation when we played against Cameroon and won 4-0.
If we had played Mikel as a No. 6 and a wrong N0.10, you will ask why we decided to change his (Mikel’s) role now.” — Rohr’s reply tod Mourinho.
Rohr’s only defense is that he met Mikel as a No. 10 and during the qualifiers Mikel’s performance as  an attacking midfielder was impressive enough to leave the former Chelsea man in that position. Is Mourinho who coached Mikel for 3 long years (2006-2007 & 2013-2015) at Chelsea wrong about the player’s abilities? I doubt that.


Over the years, Mikel’s attacking skills have been left untrained due to his role in Chelsea — of course Mourinho would know all about that, after all he changed Mikel from a good No. 10 to a defensive midfielder. After many tactical analysis of Nigeria’s game against Croatia, Mikel attempted 43 passes, 35 of which were accurate, however, he only made four tackles, while Wilfred Ndidi made five, followed by Oghenekaro Etebo, who made two. Ndidi behind Mikel attempted more passes and dribbles than the No.10 did, and for an offensive midfielder that is almost nothing to write home about. Nigeria’s No.10 legend, Austin Jay-Jay Okocha told Super Sport:
Eagles didn’t get the best out of Alex Iwobi and Victor Moses because the manager was trying to accommodate Mikel Obi in the team.
Mikel’s role as a playmaker in Nigeria’s last game was not up to par, meanwhile Etebo, who was deep behind him, had more touches than the game’s man of the match, Luka Modric, with 94 touches to Modric’s 87. It therefore begs the question and of course the surprise — what will Rohr do with Mikel against a tough Iceland?

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This article was first published on 22nd June 2018 and updated on June 25th, 2018 at 9:48 am


Achem Samuel is a writer and a musician, he is passionate about God and also an ardent fan of tech, sports and music.

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