Sport: CHAN-bound Eagles come under scrutiny

Super Eagles B team kicked off their preparation for the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Morocco next year with a goalless draw encounter against Nigeria Professional League (NPFL) champions Plateau United at the 2017 NPFL Invitational tournament.

So far at the tournament all four matches played have ended in stalemates and an average of one goal per game.

Ahead of the 2018 CHAN in Morocco, here are the five things to pore over about the home-based Super Eagles team after their game against Plateau United.

Ali the best

Kano Pillars midfielder Rabiu Ali continues with his impressive performance from where he stopped after the CHAN qualifiers and the 2017 WAFU Cup of Nations in Ghana. He continues to make a case for himself as the best midfielder in the squad with his consistent and superb performances. The Kano Pillars legend has been the main man in the team with his brilliant final passes. He is one of the most important players in the squad. Despite the poor performance of the team against Plateau United, Ali stood out with his top notch display.

He kept promising midfielder Destiny Ashadi on the bench in Ghana and the like of Austine Oladapo was left to watch on the bench against Plateau United on Wednesday. He has also proved that his consistent goals record in the league is no fluke. Ali will be important to the CHAN team in Morocco, his leadership quality in the midfield is something that was missing in the last CHAN team that went to Rwanda.

Yusuf needs a proper right-back

Osas Okoro has been brilliant in his new role as a right wing back, he started this new role at Rangers International under Imama Amapakabo. Okoro has featured in this new position in the CHAN qualifiers and WAFU Cup. Obviously, opponents have indentified Okoro as a target to explore in the Eagles defence. When the team are dominating and attacking, Okoro gives added advantage and his crosses are superb but when the team are under pressure from opponent he gets exposed too often. We witnessed this situation in Ghana against Gomez of Benin Republic and against the mobile Ghanaian attackers.

Okoro also had a difficult game against Plateau United’s Joshua Obaje making life difficult for the Rangers man defensively. Salisu Yusuf must start working on a plan B and a proper right back to free up Okoro to play in his natural attacking wing position before the CHAN tournament.

Sani behind Akas & Itodo

If Yusuf is looking for a backup for Akas and Itodo in the left-back position, truthfully Nasiru Sani cannot be the replacement. Yusuf will be excited with Akas making a return to the team after his trials in Europe. Sani was rated high last season at Katsina United but he has been unimpressive in the national team.

He had a below average performance against Plateau United with poor crosses and poor defending, Sani who recently joined Enyimba from Katsina United does not look as the option in the CHAN team. He is behind Akas and Itodo with his performance.

Olatunbosun must step up

The CNN Goal of the Week winner Sikiru Olatunbosun needs to step up his game. The MFM FC winger has struggled often times in the national team. He was left out of the WAFU Cup squad after an unconvincing performance in the CHAN qualifiers. Against Plateau United, Olatunbosun failed to replicate his league performance and was substituted in the second half. With the competition for places in the team right now, he needs to up his matchday performance or risk being dropped from the team. He is obviously on a last opportunity in the national team.

Mbaoma & Faleye to get opportunity

The like of Tony Okpotu and Kingsley Eduwo need competition for their places in the striking roles as the team continue to struggle to score goals. Victor Mbaoma and Sunday Faleye finished as top scorers for their clubs in the immediate past season in the NPFL, and the pair are raring to go following their decent performance in training before the Plateau United game. Mbaoma and Faleye are now in line to get their chances when the Eagles play their next game against Enyimba on Friday, as Yusuf continues to look for solutions to his team’s goalscoring malady.

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