Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Ukraine 2-2 Nigeria: What did we learn?

#1 Zinchenko is an invaluable asset

Just when it seemed Manchester City were not serious for signing a relatively unknown 19-year-old Oleksandr Zinchenko in the summer of 2016 for a meagre £1.7 million, the versatile left-sided player has continued to prove doubters wrong.

He was at the heart of Ukraine’s come-back on Tuesday night, with his attacking moves causing all sorts of problems for the Super Eagles backline. His goal was superb too, finding space in the 18-yard area and leaving goalkeeper Francis Uzoho for dead with a powerful shot.

Zinchenko has established himself as first-choice left-back at the Etihad Stadium, and with Ukraine suffering just one defeat in their last 17 matches, and also looking poised to make it to Euro 2020, we can expect a lot more brilliant outings from the 22-year-old.

#2 Maintaining momentum is not for Nigeria

It seemed like it was a new lease of life for the Super Eagles when they raced to a 2-0 lead in Dnipro. So good was their first-half performance, there was that confidence they will see out the game, with Ukraine at sixes and sevens in the opening period. It turned out to be the reverse in the second half, with Andriy Shevchenko’s side netting two quick-fire goals that could have been avoided had the Nigerian backline done better.

It continues the trend of the West Africans not able to hold on to a lead, but rather find their strength and energy when falling from behind. This could cost Nigeria valuable results in future even as there were lots of positives to take from this clash. Coach Gernot Rohr also needs to utilise his substitutions better.

#3 Aribo is gold

The love of Nigerian fans towards Gernot Rohr might be divided due to his tactical methods, one thing that he has succeeded in doing is bringing exciting faces to the team, and the latest addition was Joe Aribo. It was a debut to remember for the Rangers man, who brought more creativity and dynamism to the midfield.

His link-up play was superb, giving room for the attack to cause havoc to the Ukrainian defence, while Oghenekaro Etebo was saddled with defensive responsibilities. The former Charlton Athletic man seems to be the ideal box-to-box midfielder missing in the team, and if that proves to be the case, it might be the end of the ineffective pairing of Peter Etebo and Wilfred Ndidi.

#4 Osimhen is coming good at last

It’s been a long wait for Victor Osimhen to show he deserves a starting shirt with the national team. He has been part of many matchday squads under Rohr, but has failed to get significant minutes, drawing the ire of fans in some quarters. However, it does seem that the international retirement of Odion Ighalo has now made things stick for the 2015 U-17 World Cup winner.

He led the attack on Tuesday and was in fine form, constantly having a go at his markers, beating them with his pace, and positioning himself in the right places to score. Though his goal came from the penalty spot after Samuel Kalu was brought down in the box, Osimhen looks good value for Nigeria, way better than Ighalo – who was usually reliant on getting service and lacked the needed pace to be more devastating.

Osimhen’s continued brilliance with Lille in Ligue 1 (four goals in four games), could also translate into more of the same for the Super Eagles.

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