Thursday, 28th September 2023

My observations: First teams to score go on to win

By Gowon Akpodonor, Cairo, Egypt
13 July 2019   |   3:22 am
If you want to succeed at the on-going knockout phase of the AFCON tournament, the psychology of triumph seems to lie in the ability to score first. Even if you conceded an equaliser, the odds are that you would laugh last.

(Top L to R) Nigeria’s goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, Nigeria’s forward Odion Ighalo, Nigeria’s defender Kenneth Omeruo, Nigeria’s defender William Ekong, Nigeria’s defender Leon Balogun, Nigeria’s defender Chidozie Awaziem, (bottom L to R) Nigeria’s forward Moses Simon, Nigeria’s midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo, Nigeria’s defender Olaoluwa Aina, Nigeria’s forward Ahmed Musa, and Nigeria’s forward Alex Iwobi, pose for a team photo ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Nigeria and Guinea at the Alexandria Stadium on June 26 , 2019. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

If you want to succeed at the on-going knockout phase of the AFCON tournament, the psychology of triumph seems to lie in the ability to score first. Even if you conceded an equaliser, the odds are that you would laugh last.

When Samuel Chukwueze opened scores for Super Eagles against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa on Wednesday night, the feat extended the tradition of the first team to score winning the game at the tournament. Earlier in the day, Teranga Lions of Senegal scored a late goal against the Benin Republic, which ended as the only goal of the night.

The Significance Of Super Eagles Victory Over South Africa
When William Troost-Ekong scored the decider that gave Nigeria the semifinal ticket against South Africa on Wednesday night, it marked the 15th time the country will reach that stage of the tournament since the bronze-winning feat of 1976 in Ethiopia. It also marked the first time Nigeria will reach that stage after missing the last two editions in Equatorial Guinea in 2015 and the last time out in Gabon.

The VAR Test For Super Eagles
There was palpable silence when the referee took his time before the decision to award the equalizing goal to South Africa on Wednesday night in Cairo. Although the referee did not bother to check by himself, as many would have expected, after about four minutes of suspense, he pointed to the center circle following the Control Room’s review that called the goal legitimate. Most Nigerians and partisan Egyptian fans in the arena were utterly disappointed with the decision.

Super Eagles The Adopted Home Team Of AFCON 2019
Super Eagles of Nigeria is the most popular team at the ongoing tournament since the elimination of the host country last weekend.

With a high population of Nigerian community here in Egypt and with the exit of Pharaohs of Egypt, the fans of the host nation have adopted Super Eagles as their own. The Nigerian team had the home advantage against South Africa, as they enjoyed the cheers from the crowd. Should Nigeria win their next match, which is the semifinal, they would have been the only team that played more matches at the 75,000 capacity Cairo International stadium.

Why I Rejiged My Team Against South Africa-Rohr
The decision to start Samuel Chukwueze and Jamilu Collins in the match against South Africa is still a talking point among pundits, who hitherto had criticized the coach for not starting the Villarreal winger since the beginning of the tournament. The coach dropped regular Ola Aina to the bench for Collins and later substituted Moses Simon for Ahmed Musa in the break or bend tie last Wednesday.

Rohr explained that in the last match against Cameroun, he did not play a natural left-footer in the squad, but he reverted to the conventional style because of the team’s opponent.

“In the match against Cameroun, we did not play any natural left-footer and this explained why I dropped Aina for Collins, who did very well in that position. We have to understand the fact that we take the games as they come and not that any player dropped was out of form.

“We suffered to some extent against South Africa, who I have a lot of respect for. It is unfortunate that they had to play crucial matches within the spate of four days.

“After playing against the host country and won inside this big stadium, it was obvious that they would play against an unfriendly crowd. That also worked to our advantage aside from the fact that we had more hours to rest after our last match,” he explained.

Collins Happy With Starting Role
FC Padeborn of Germany defender, Jamilu Collins has described his starting role in the match against South Africa as a dream come true.

The defender was given the nod ahead of popular Ola Aina for the Cairo International Stadium cracker and many soccer fans were happy with his playing style, especially for not giving South Africa’s Percy Tau any breathing space.

“It was a dream come true that I was chosen ahead of others in the mix. And I am delighted that I was able to overcome the stage fright at the start of the match and in the end we won.

“Let me also say that I am not here to take anybody’s position but just to contribute my quota into the team. It is left to the coach to select his team and everyone here is qualified to play for Nigeria,” he said.