Nwabali, Yusuf and Nigeria’s lethargic draw against Equatorial Guinea

It was another ninety minutes of yawns, anger, frustration and lethargy as Nigeria’s Super Eagles forced Equatorial Guinea to a draw, 1-1.

But in spite of the result and performance, ChinaAcheru.com looks back on six things we should not forget after watching that game.

Stanley Nwabali may be the truth

Barely a week before the start of the AFCON, I wrote that Jose Peseiro should start Stanley Nwabali in goal to solve Nigeria’s goalkeeping problems, even though I did not think he would. Akinbode Oguntuyi also wrote that he thought Peseiro would still start Uzoho unless there was something he saw in Nwabali that made him fly to South Africa to meet with him.

Nwabali was one of the few bright spots in the team that failed to fly high on Sunday. His confidence, his calm nature, even after conceding an early goal and his composure just showed that Nigeria MAY have discovered their new number-one goalkeeper.

If Nwabali maintains this level of goalkeeping throughout this tournament, then our goalkeeping worries MAY just be about over.

Alhassan Yusuf, the work horse

Alhassan Yusuf

Very few Nigerians would have thought Alhassan Yusuf was going to start against Equatorial Guinea. He was a late call-up to injured Wilfred Ndidi.

Yusuf was the live wire in our very dull team. He covered every blade of grass, marking, tackling, shooting, crossing, etc until he got taken off injured. I hear it is just cramps and nothing else. Yusuf should be wrapped in cotton wool and attended to so he is very okay for the Ivoriens.

Yusuf wanted to play for Nigeria at the AFCON, he got his chance and he gave his best for the country. If only the other players could do the same.

Alex Iwobi needs to stay focused.

Alex Iwobi

On the ball, Alex Iwobi did his bit and we saw his passes free the strikers, especially Victor Osimhen, in the chance he missed in the second half.

However, Iwobi seems to lose concentration when it matters.

He seemed like he was twiddling his thumbs and was absent-minded when he lost the ball, leading to the Equato-Guinean goal. Aside from that and another ball he gave away, Iwobi did not do badly. He just needs to keep his focus.

Maybe, Yakubu Aiyegbeni lied to us

Yakubu Aiyegbeni

In his Portsmouth days, former Super Eagles striker, Yakubu Aiyegbeni said, “Feed me and I will score.”

The media in the UK jumped on this and went to town with the headlines, Feed The Yak!

But, maybe Yakubu lied. It is not enough to just feed a striker. If you feed a striker, he may not still score. Victor Osimhen was fed overdose; Zaidu Sanusi had a table laid before him and Ademola Lookman also had a three-course meal served to him. So profligacy was a major problem on Sunday after the strikers were fed.

It’s possible that these guys can be well-fed and still not score. But looking on the brighter side, the fact that we had the luxury of Victor Osimhen, Ademola Lookman and Zaidu Sanusi missing those chances means we at least created them. I would have been more worried if we did not create anything.

Osimhem does so much running and is an all-action kind of player, but he needs to calm down in front of goal (Who am I to tell the Serie A top scorer how to score goals? How many have I scored in my life?)

Chukwueze needs to ask himself some tough questions

Nigeria’s forward Samuel Chukwueze celebrates his goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) quarter final football match between Nigeria and South Africa at Cairo international stadium on July 9, 2019. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

Does Samuel Chukwueze know that he is playing in the AFCON for Nigeria? Does he know that players like Segun Odegbami, Adokiye Amiesimaka, Ndubuisi Okosieme, Clement Temile and Finidi George, to name a few played on the wings for Nigeria? Has he taken time to watch clips of these former internationals to see what effort they put in while wearing the green of the country?

Samuel Chukwueze against Equatorial Guinea seemed out of sorts. He could not cross, he could not shoot, he could not pass. He did not even exist to us at the time he was on the pitch for the Eagles. He seemed he wished he was somewhere else on that pitch.

Nigerians must calm down on Equatorial Guinea

Nigerians are visibly angry at the result and performance against Equatorial Guinea. It was seen as a must-win match for Nigeria and when the result did not come, all hell was let lose. But Nigerians must understand that these Equato-Guineans are no pushovers in African football.

For one, they have been unbeaten in their last nine matches, the game against Nigeria making it ten, and dragging as far back as their loss to Cameroon in 2022.

Throughout 2023, they did not lose a game and their opponents included Rwanda, Togo, Botswana, Tunisia, Libya, Burkina Faso, Namibia and Liberia. Note that Nigeria lost at home to Guinea Bissau in 2023.

Unpopular opinion

Jose Peseiro

Love or loathe him, Jose Peseiro did not do badly on Sunday against Equatorial Guinea.

He got his selection right, dropping Francis Uzoho for Stanley Nwabali and starting with Ola Aina and Zaidu Sanusi who offer a lot defensively and going forward.

In midfield, starting with Yusuf Alhassan was the big joker too. Nigeria had thirteen shots at goal and seven on target. We may not have been prime Brazil, or the USA 94 set, but we had a plan, we played according to it, and we just did not score.

Nigeria has two more games to play for a place in the first knockout round of the AFCON.

In 2013, when the Super Eagles won the AFCON trophy they did not win their first two games.

Brace up for the ride.

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