Jose Peseiro, Who goes you?

Who goes you, Jose Peseiro? This is the question Nigerians and non-Nigerians have been asking for more than a week now, and the reason for this is not far-fetched.

Once again, Super Eagles coach, Jose Peseiro set up his team in a way that his opponents hardly got a sniff at goal and saw Nigeria stroll into the semi-finals of the AFCON without breaking much sweat, as the Angolans fell 1-0. The Super Eagles class of 2024 is about the most composed class of Super Eagles players since I started watching this team in 1984, and they play as though they have no care in the world, as though they already know that the result of the game will be in their favour.

For those, who do not know, the term, “Who goes you?” is a Port Harcourt street lingo for identification. Who are you? What are you up to? What stuff are you made of? Why are you here?

For a coach who was very much vilified by the media, and fans on Social Media, Peseiro has turned things around for himself and the team by getting to this stage of the competition and playing pretty decent football at that.

The 2-0 win over Cameroon in the Round of 16 showed one team’s total domination over another, such that has never happened between Nigeria and Cameroon before. The 1-0 win over Angola further buttressed the fact that whatever Peseiro did, the Super Eagles at least have an identified playing style at the AFCON, something the past coach, Gernot Rohr had no idea how to achieve.

Victor Osimhen’s one-man press

Just like he did against Cameroon, Victor Osimhen’s one-man press was one of the highlights of the game. Osimhen did not score in the game, but the Angolan defence never had any rest as he was always behind them and breathing down their necks.

Hardly have I watched a game where one player decides to take matters into his own hands by not just leading the lines but doing the pressing, mostly all by himself.

All game long, Victor Osimhen did not stop running, and if not for VAR, he would have had his name on the score sheet. Victor Osimhen’s one-man press needs to be studied.

The passing game

I do not know if anyone noticed the passing game of the Super Eagles. You did not? Well, I did. The first thing to note is that this team is playing the ball out the back, and they are doing it slowly and intentionally. The second thing is that they do the sideways passing for a bit then bomb forward. They do not break shape, they are passing the ball well, and they act as though they have a blood covenant with each other not to let the team down. You can see the determination in each player, right there on the pitch. It is the same players, so what did Peseiro say to them or do to them? Jose Peseiro, who goes you? That is what the Super Eagles in the Ivory Coast are playing like, and the good thing is that the results are coming in. For the goal against Angola, it was a cross-field pass from Alex Iwobi, deep in the heart of the Super Eagles defence to Zaidu Sanusi who saw Moses Simon running into space. Sanusi passed to Moses Simon who skipped over the leg of his marker, dancing with the ball into the penalty area. With Victor Osimhen moving close to goal, it would have been sheer willpower not to give the ball to the number 9, but a calm Simon saw Ademola Lookman calling for the ball and with more space to operate than Osimhen he coolly tapped the ball to the Atalanta man who blasted home with his left foot. This is the best Super Eagles team goal I have seen at the AFCON in a very long time.

Jose Peseiro, who goes you?

Before the first ball at the AFCON was kicked, Nigerians feared for their goalkeeper and defenders. The country would relax at the names in its attack, knowing that the goals would flow easily, but would not be sure about conceding. Then, just before the AFCON kicked off, the Eagles lost two attackers to injury- Victor Boniface and Sadiq Umar, while a half-fit Kelechi Iheanachor stayed with the team.

Five matches down the line Nigeria has conceded 1 goal, scored 6 goals and kept 4 clean sheets. Of the 6 goals scored, one was an own goal, and another was a penalty, so the much-famed Nigerian attack has only scored 4 goals in 5 matches. What has seen Nigeria through has been the defence and the goalkeeper, and it is all down to Jose Peseiro.

Going to South Africa to get Stanley Nwabali was his master stroke. This means Peseiro knew where his problems lay and went for a solution.

Also reverting to a back 5 also showed he knew where his team was vulnerable and did not just reshape, he insisted on tactical discipline, because he stuck with the same defenders.

The tactical assassination of Cameroon and Angola

A lot of people want to downplay the win over Cameroon, just like they downplayed the win over the Ivory Coast, and may now also downplay the win over Angola. This Ivory Coast team is weak, they said; this is the worst Cameroonian team we have seen, they also said. The Angolan team at the AFCON was good, but they played poorly against Nigeria, they also said. These are the same people who said before the AFCON that the Ivorians would be our biggest threat in the group. Before the Round of 16 Game against Cameroon, the Central African side’s record against Nigeria in Cup finals was spelled out but as soon as the game ended, the Cameroonians were the worst in history. They also talked about the pace of the Angolan game and how two players had scored 4 and 3 goals in the team. Nigeria had to be afraid.

Here’s the thing, a good plan can make your opponent look useless. Just like the Barcelona team of 2006 to 2012. They will own the possession all game long, not give their opponents a sniff. This did not mean that all the teams in Europe were poor. Back the Jose Peseiro.

A senior colleague of mine wrote this, “He (Peseiro) has earned my respect and support and I wish him all the best. So far he is on track and has done well with his tactical set-up in the games so far. I was relaxed about the outcome of the game once I saw the selection. He made two critical decisions that earned my respect, admitting we needed a better keeper and going all out for Nwabali trusting him as the first choice and setting up his team with 3 Centre Backs and playing conservatively.

I will give him one thing, this is the best Super Eagles team in terms of tactical discipline I have seen ever. Our best teams have been incredible attacking forces that mostly got undone with the tactical indiscipline”

Jose Peseiro should however know that the journey is just beginning. Nigeria always gets to the semi-finals. This will be Nigeria’s 16th semi-final. The country has only been to the final 7 times in 15 previous semi-final appearances. You can answer the question, Who goes you? with a semi-final win.

Jose Peseiro, who goes you?

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