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WC Qualification Africa

Nigeria vs Ghana: Super Eagles strive to survive pressure cooker mission

6:47 PM WAT 28/03/2022
Ademola Lookman of Nigeria and Leicester City.
The three-time African champions need a win to make it to Qatar 2022, but last week’s discouraging showing has heightened fears they might fall short

It is simple, Nigeria can no longer afford or accept inadequacies.

Regardless of what Augustine Eguavoen thinks, Friday’s result in Ghana was not a good one.

Scoring an away goal would have made the Super Eagles’ position stronger heading into the reverse fixture in Abuja. Failure to do so has left them needing a win on home turf to make it to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“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 Friday’s stalemate.

“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.”

While the Super Eagles trainer believes that a win over the Black Stars on home turf is achievable, supporters are nervous.

Admittedly, this is the fans’ concern but, unlike your typical pre-game nerves, their worries are not devoid of reason and appear to have merit.

The dire performance at the Baba Yara Stadium was dispiriting. The seeming intransigence in sticking to the one-dimensional approach from the Africa Cup of Nations was exasperating.

It worked against Egypt, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau, but the Super Eagles have since lost the element of surprise. The over-reliance on wide attackers was fun while it lasted and Eguavoen needs to get this side playing differently, even if that same approach proves good enough to outdo their West African rivals on Tuesday and secure a World Cup ticket.

Home advantage is an undoubted blessing, especially when the reverse fixture is on your turf, but it can also have its drawbacks.

What happens if Ghana score early at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium? What happens if it remains scoreless far longer than the home support expect?

Otto Addo is seemingly counting on supporters’ nerves to somehow translate to the pitch, causing the home side to feel overwhelmed by the angst.

Whether this proves to be the right strategy remains to be seen.

“The Nigerians saw that we can play as well. I think we matched them up," the Black Stars trainer said after last week’s game.

“They have high-quality players but in all it was equal. The pressure will be on them at home and no away goals can hurt a lot.”

President of the Nigeria Football Federation Amaju Pinnick saw the game quite differently, evident by his assessment of that clash and prognostication for Tuesday.

“I think Ghana managed to have a draw, not Nigeria. I think we had a good chance of winning the game even though we’ve drawn,” the NFF supremo said on Ghanaian radio station Akoma FM last week.

“I thought that we could have won the game.

“Our team is the better but we were unfortunate on the day. I know we should and will win convincingly at home.”

If only it were that simple. If only it were that straightforward.

While Ghana admittedly failed to create any clear-cut opportunities — and with Francis Uzoho at his shot-stopping and anticipatory best whenever they did create promising openings — the Super Eagles still somehow fashioned the game’s best chances.

They also could have had a late penalty had Redouane Jiyed not correctly reversed his original decision to award a spot-kick with 15 minutes to play.

It is often said that multiple claims can all be true, but one wonders if the NFF leader or Eguavoen are as confident privately as they are outwardly.

In truth, Nigeria did create the game’s best chances, yet if anyone thinks a similar limp showing in Abuja will take this side through, then they have another thing coming and their nation’s football is in far substandard hands than many have hitherto thought.

It would be a travesty if this talented crop of Super Eagles do not make it to Qatar, and heads could roll if Tuesday evening goes awry.

Indeed, inadequacies cannot be tolerated.