THREE THINGS NIGERIA MUST DO TO BEAT ICELAND – AND STAY ALIVE

THREE THINGS NIGERIA MUST DO TO BEAT ICELAND – AND STAY ALIVE

Saturday’s loss to Croatia has left Gernot Rohr and his wards needing to beat Iceland to keep their hopes of progressing to the World Cup round of 16 alive.

In his post-match press conference and again in the build-up to Friday’s game in Volgograd, Rohr pointed out two things which were ultimately responsible for his side’s defeat — a naïveté at defending set-pieces, and a lack of experience.

Rohr will attempt to tweak his formation and personnel against Iceland, but to secure the win will take more than just a rejigged tactical setup and personnel. Here are three things the Super Eagles need to do to win …

WIN THE FIRST BALL, AND THE SECOND, AD INFINITUM
Watching that first game was, for the most part, shockingly embarrassing as the Nigeria players were continually getting beaten to the first and second balls. Even when they got tight on their opponents, the Croatians simply got past them with classic one-touch football. It meant the Eagles could barely get a touch for the most part.

Iceland are not quite the same ball-hogs as Croatia and will surrender possession much easier, but they will look to exploit any advantage. The Super Eagles must win the balls in the opposition half. They must contest and win those balls in that final third and then try to pull the massed defence out of shape.

Wilfred Ndidi of Nigeria, Croatia's Andrej Kramaric EPA/MARTIN DIVISEK

Wilfred Ndidi of Nigeria, Croatia’s Andrej Kramaric EPA/MARTIN DIVISEK

DEFEND SET-PIECES
Four games, five goals conceded from set-pieces. Rohr must be tearing his hair out! On Wednesday, the German pointed out that his team did not concede from a corner in two years, only to surrender to Croatia’s free-kick prowess.

Rohr claims the errors are not only being worked on in practice, but that the players are also learning a few tricks of their own. As we’ve seen in the opening round of games where chances are at a premium, learning and executing set-pieces to perfection is a key component of getting goals, and wins, at the World Cup.

EXPLOIT TRANSITIONS TO THE MAX
For a team with so much lace to burn, it is incredibly puzzling how Nigeria contrived to squander opportunity after opportunity to streak forward and grab a goal. Instead, a slow build-up on transition runs into a cul-de-sac, and players tamely run back and play the ball back to a defensive player, before trying to build again when the opponent has regrouped.

This is unacceptable — Rohr needs to impress it on the players that these transitions are worth their weight in goals. Have the boys break at speed whenever they get a chance to. There is the speed and guile of Moses, the quick feet of Musa, and Shehu and Iwobi. There’s even lace from the fullbacks/wingbacks.

It was amazing to see how this side lumbered against Croatia. Allow them to freely express themselves against Iceland and we may just make it out of the group.

Colin Udoh
Football Editor, KweséESPN

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