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2022 World Cup Qualifiers: Did Eguavoen make avoidable Lookman mistake in Nigeria’s drab Ghana draw?

6:55 PM WAT 26/03/2022
Ademola Lookman of Nigeria and Leicester City.
The Leicester City wide attacker could and should have seen more game time against the Black Stars

A lot was made about Ademola Lookman’s possible debut appearance for Nigeria, but it turned out to be an anti-climax, to say the least.

Not only was the Leicester City wideman not involved from the off, but he was introduced late on when the Super Eagles had seemingly settled for a draw at the Baba Yara Stadium.

Augustine Eguavoen’s post-match remarks seemed to indicate some sort of gratification at the result, either worrying or pleasing supporters depending on their different perspectives.

“We wanted to win the game and if we could not get the win, at least settle for a draw. That is exactly what happened,” the Super Eagles trainer stated after the game.

“Ghana have been on top of their game but they did not have any clear-cut chance, but we had two clear-cut chances it could have been a win but a draw is very ok.

“We had two clear chances to just finish Ghana, but I think getting a draw is good enough even though we wanted to win here.”

In a sense, the Super Eagles boss was right. Had Joe Aribo kept his composure just before half-time after being played through by Ola Aina, the Super Eagles would have gone into the break 1-0 up.

Had the erratic Moses Simon managed to beat Joseph Wollacott when he was eyeball to eyeball with the Black Stars goalkeeper, the visiting side would have netted an important away goal which may have been enough to seal a 1-0 success.

Having said that, did play well enough to even deserve anything from Friday night’s game?

While the defence, by and large, flourished in Kumasi, every other department struggled to pull up trees in what was largely an abject showing from the midfield and attack.

It is hardly ever a good look when your goalkeeper comes out of a game as the undisputed man of the match, an achievement that was bestowed on Francis Uzoho after Friday’s showing.

There were doubts over the AC Omonia shot-stopper who came in for the absent Maduka Okoye. However, the towering goalie justified Eguavoen’s selection with an impressive command of his penalty area and decent-to-good shot-stopping.

While there were questions concerning the goalkeeper and defence, the players selected thrived despite pre-game concerns.

What marred Nigeria in the West African derby was the coach’s selection in midfield and the forward line, with Lookman’s exclusion from the XI and delayed introduction especially ill-advised.

The Leicester man was brought on for Simon who endured a torrid outing at the Baba Yara but strangely stayed on for as long as he did. Having been Nigeria’s best performer at the Africa Cup of Nations, the Nantes wideman could not replicate the form from the continental showpiece or Ligue 1.

Like Simon, Samuel Chukwueze did not cover himself in glory with a wretched performance for the hour hitherto his withdrawal.

Having debated the possibility of either Simon or Lookman starting on either flank before Friday’s game, opting for the out-of-form Villarreal man whose recent performances in La Liga have highlighted he is best used as an impact substitute was an avoidable call from Eguavoen.

In truth, it is anyone’s guess whether a single switch of personnel with Lookman starting in place of either Simon or Chukwueze would have made substantial changes in what turned out to be a disappointing attacking showing.

Eguavoen made the right decisions with his defensive choices on Friday, now — with a World Cup ticket at stake — the Super Eagles boss must show the same judgement against the Black Stars in Abuja.