The Super Eagles of Nigeria will go on with their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against the Squirrels of Benin Republic in a must win clash for both sides this weekend.
Three-time African champions, Super Eagles will travel to Benin Republic for their reverse fixture in the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations billed for Cameroon.
Gernot Rohr’s men defeated the Squirrels 2-1 in the first leg played at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo thanks to goals from Victor Osimhen and Samuel Kalu.
Having played out a goalless draw against Sierra Leone in their last match, the Super Eagles would be going all out for a win which would guarantee them a ticket to their 19th appearance at the biennial African football showpiece.
Nigeria’s greatest strength lies in their attack with their defence, their weakpoint, a point made more glaring with the capitulation at the hands of Sierra Leone last time out- starting at 4-0 but ending the game 4-4.
If the Super eagles want to disturb Benin from the start of the match, a three pronged attack including inform striker Kelechi Iheanacho, Paul Onuachu and Chukwueze will be most beneficial to Gernot Rohr’s cause.
This attack line will have pace, power and unpredictability as the Benin team won’t be able to predict the movement of the three players especially if they rotate positions during the match.
Also Onuachu, Belgium’s highest goalscorer, will be a wild card and provides an aerial threat if Nigeria decides to focus on crosses from the wings.
Benin has never faced Onuachu and don’t know what to expect against the towering striker.
Another option for the Super eagles will be to start Napoli forward, Victor Osimhen.
But that comes with its own risks as the Edo born goalscorer is not in form and recently returned from a head injury. That will also mean sacrificing Onuachu, meaning Nigeria’s aerial threat chances will be drastically reduced.
Also Nigeria’s full backs have a crucial role to play at this game.
FC Porto’s Zaido Sanusi, who ran Cristiano Ronaldo ragged in the UEFA Champions league, will have to be industrious at left back and ensure his over lapping runs and crosses are always pinpoint and perfect.
He should ensure that with every foray he makes forward, communication should be made to defensive midfielder, Wilfred Ndidi to cover up for him so that Benin don’t capitalize on that position during counter attacks, because the Squirrels will surely counter attack knowing Nigeria will dominate possession for long spells during the game.
Knowing that Benin will play a defensive game, Rohr should know that the key to unlocking his opponent’s defence lies with Joe Aribo and Alex Iwobi.
They should stick to their roles and always look for openings in the defence line to lay passes for Iheanacho, Chukwueze, Onuachu and Osimhen who will always be running during the game.
The first leg between both teams staged at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo ended in defeat for Benin, with goals from Victor Osimhen and Samuel Kalu inspiring a 2-1 triumph, while Benin’s only strike was scored by Stephane Sessegnon.
But Sessegnon was omitted from his team’s 23-man squad as he remains clubless .
Just like Ahmed Musa, the 36-year-old Sessegnon will be in the Squirrels camp as a non-playing captain to boost the morale of his teammates.
Victory for Benin at Porto-Novo’s Stade Charles de Gaulle would guarantee them a ticket to their fifth appearance at the biennial African football showpiece.
Benin should exploit Omeruo’s instability and incessant lack of full time concentration if they want to penetrate Nigeria’s defence line.
Also the Benin team would be better served if they operate more through the right if Ebuehi starts at right back for Nigeria . Ebuehi’s strength isn’t at defending so his forays forward will create openings at the back of the Eagle’s defence, a tactical error the Squirrels could capitalize on and inflict damage on the Eagles.
The Africa Cup of Nations qualifier has been scheduled for 17:00 (West African Time) on Saturday, March 27.
Nigeria player to watch out for : Iheanacho, Onuachu
Benin player to watch out for:
It will be a very tough game as Benin will prove a tough nut to crack but if Nigeria’s defence can hold its own, the power of the strikers at Rohr’s disposal will be too much for Benin to handle and they will eventually crack.
Benin 1- 2 Nigeria
Benin 1- 3 Nigeria