Nigeria achieved her best ever finish at the African Nations Championship despite losing 0-4 to Morocco in the final played on Sunday to finish as first runner-up.
However could the CHAN Eagles have won the game against the host? Owngoalnigeria.com Osas Mahawi believes the coach of the Nigerian team Salisu Yusuf made four big errors that lead to the humiliating loss.
1. Inclusion of Peter Eneji
It’s a gamble that could have gone either ways, but there was always the likelihood of the gamble going against him considering the player has not played a single minute of competitive football in over a month.
Selecting him to start in the final game of the tournament in place of the main striker in the team Tony Okpotu, who has had a hand in four of the five goals scored by the team in the run up to the final is one gamble many coaches won’t dare.
Forget about the red card to Eneji. He had a poor game and even at his best, he is not the type of player who can make something happen out of nothing due to his inconsistency that saw him go from the sublime to the ridiculous during the WAFU tournament held in Ghana.
2. Picking Rabiu Ali ahead Of Austine Oladapo .
More than anything else the game against Morocco was one which will definitely be won by the team with the best midfield. The selection of Rabiu Ali who struggled to cope with the pace of the Moroccans exposed a flaw in the technical abilities of coach Salisu Yusuf.
A player like Oladapo who has the legs to track back and keep the Moroccans in check should have been picked from the start to play alongside the duo of Emeka Atuloma and Dayo Ojo.
Ali was a passenger on the pitch for the period he was on, and many believed if he was introduced into the game, he could have done better because the pace would have dropped for him to cope, as he is 37 years old and not one who is known for his ability to cover grounds, something that is needed when playing against the Moroccans.
3. No cover for Osas Okoro at right back.
Okoro’s growth as a right back has been phenomenal, considering he was a right winger who was the creative hub of this same team during the last CHAN championship in Rwanda.
However up against the pacy Zakari Hadraf, he struggled to keep the man who scored a brace for Morocco in check. Coach Salisu Yusuf should have read very early into the game the plans of the Moroccans to exploit Okoro’s poor tackling ability by doubling up on him.
The coach should have deployed either Dayo Ojo to provide cover for Okoro or better still make Emeka Ogbugh play close to the full back to keep the Moroccans in check. Point to note here is ex Super Eagles coach Jo Bonfere deploying then Nigeria AFCON hero Julius Aghahowa to play as support for left back Celestine Babayaro when it was clear that Babayaro has no answers for the raw pace of Laurent Bixente Etame Meyer in the 2000 AFCON final game against Cameroon.
4. Allowing “dangerman “ Ayoub El Kaabi Too Much Space.
Prior to the final game of the tournament, it was clear to everyone watching the showpiece that the one man who has to be stopped in the final for Nigeria to win is Ayoub El Kaabi.
It was shocking to see the 24 year old running into the box unmarked and most times unchallenged by the Nigerian defenders, who were supposed to be keeping a close watch on the forward.
The decision not to man marked the top scorer of the tournament in the final game was one which cost Nigeria dearly and played a big role in the 0-4 loss even though Kaabi only scored once.
El-Kaabi dragged the Nigerian defenders out of position, produced a clever dummy for the first goal and also stayed lively till he was replaced after his goal. All of the aforementioned could have been prevented if coach Salisu Yusuf had instructed his defenders to keep track of the forward.