By Albert Akota with agency report
The countdown to the World Cup in Russia is less than 90 days and still, some Nigerian football fans harbor doubts about the Super Eagles’ first choice defensive pairing Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong popularly called the ‘Oyibo Wall’.
Today match at the 42,000 capacity Stadium Wroclaw, Gernot Rohr will understand better his defenders and their synergy, and his whole team when they face the first rate marksmanship of Poland led by Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
If they stand up to the test then some fans will breathe easier as they look ahead to matches against Serbia, Iceland, and Argentina at Russia 2018.
Poland has pedigree at the FIFA World Cup, having come third twice – in 1974 and 1982. The class of 2018, led by the goal-scoring phenomenon and captain, Lewandowski looks like a formidable unit. They won their World Cup qualifying group – Group E, by a massive five points ahead of second-placed Denmark, scoring 28 goals in six matches.
Nigeria has never gone beyond the round of 16 in her five appearances and the class of 2018 with youthful zest and a zany jersey are hoping the stars will align in Russia just as they did in 1996 in Atlanta when the national U-23 team won Olympic gold.
Super Eagles captain, Mikel Obi is sorting out paper issues in China; Daniel Akpeyi and Junior Ajayi could not get visas on time from South Africa and Egypt respectively. Oghenekaro Etebo was not listed for Las Palmas in their last league match but he should be in England for the Serbia friendly.
If Joel Obi gets to play any part, Gernot Rohr will look for the synergy between the Italy-based midfielder and Ogenyi Onazi and Wilfred Ndidi. Will he be a better fit if Mikel Obi is absent technically or tactically? What options does he offer the Eagles in keeping his defensive shape against very mobile opponents?
There will be a lot of crosses put into the Nigerian box, looking for Lewandowski – Rohr will be patient in seeing Uzoho’s reaction to the bombardment and how he commands the players in front of him.
Can Iheanacho play at the tip of the diamond – in the No.10 role? Does he have the tactical discipline to dictate play in the final third and join in to score frequently? Will he chase after a lost ball to give his midfielders defensive stability?
”The game against Nigeria will be a valuable test for us,” said Lukasz Fabianski.
“I remember from the friendly match against Côte d’Ivoire that they are teams that have high-level individual players in their ranks. They are always well prepared physically. It will be a very good test and good preparation for matches at the World Cup.”
Adam Nawalka will be looking at the physical solidity of his team as they are physically buffeted and bruised; and how they stand up to it. He will also be studying ways of nullifying that physical robustness exhibited by many West African teams, including Senegal, their first opponents in Russia.