As Nigeria pepare to take on Iceland, Ademetan Abayomi believes that Gernot Rohr has to adapt or face an early exit.
In early December, there was a collective groan within Nigeria when it was announced the former champions were drawn against 2014 World Cup runners up Argentina, dark horse Iceland and Croatia. And despite the group being pessimistically touted as the ‘Group of Death’, expectations were high that Rohr’s men could produce a positive result.
However, their defeat at the hands of the Croatia in the Group D opener by a score line of 2-0 should come as no surprise. The team lost two consecutive friendly games to England and Czech Republic before the tournament, then Saturday’s result was their belated burial. And the fans and media alike had had enough.
If they are to redeem their battered image, Rohr must undergo a desperate overhaul not only to save his side’s free-falling reputation, but also his sanity.
Shehu Abdullahi and Bryan Idowu struggled in the game. The full backs was doomed from the beginning.
Idowu been awful for the Eagles in recent times, and despite the wealth of talent that he possesses, his lack leadership qualities at the back was evident.
Arguably, though, Shehu showed why he doesn’t deserve to feature in the team, his sluggish play and lack of communication was lethally exposed by the long balls the Croats played behind him.
William Troost-Ekong was too slow in spotting the dangerous Mario Mandzukic in the build up to the first goal and he gave away a needless spot kick following a Judo Style with Mandzukic in the box.
In addition, John Obi Mikel looks well below his divine best while Wilfred Ndidi was largely ineffective in his centre midfield position in Rohr’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
However, Odion Ighalo’s below average performances in his last three appearances in national colours remain by far the biggest talking point. The Changchun man, in comparison, seems to be on a different wavelength than the rest of the team.
With Rohr spoilt for choice in midfield, many saw the need to replace Mikel. Unsurprisingly, Victor Moses also faced the wrath of the fans, so too did Ighalo, who many believe should be replaced by Simy Nwankwo or Kelechi Iheanacho.
What they missed though was the need to change Nigeria’s tactical formation. With the 3-5-2 middle double pivot having served the team so well in the past – providing the back-line with defensive cover – Rohr must resist the urge to fall into the same trap that was the bane of the Eagles in the debacle to Croatia, and find that right balance between defence and attack.
Indeed, changes don’t happen overnight, and there’s no doubt that Eagles were left reeling following their humiliation on world sport’s greatest stage. Their World Cup dreams are far from over, and Rohr must have the guts to instigate change if Nigeria want to keep their dreams alive.