Gernot Rohr’s men enter round five of World Cup qualifying with the option of either securing qualification or adding to the mounting pressure.
A poor performance in Tangier and a win for Cape Verde against the Central African Republic might tie the Super Eagles with the former or lower them to second if they lose.
A win is critical for the West Africans to avoid heading into their last game against Cape Verde worried about their chances of making the playoff round.
Managing Long Balls
Surprisingly, balls over the top have posed problems for Nigeria’s defense in qualifying, with Cape Verde and CAR recording goals from such positions.
In Tangier, winning the initial ball or halting it at the source decreases the possibility of being easily cut open, while defensive mistakes must be maintained to a bare minimum.
Increasing the amount of force applied to the ball
While the Super Eagles have conceded several soft goals in qualifying, a more concerning tendency has been their inability to pressure the ball carrier while maintaining a mid-block or high defensive line.
This is a serious sin, and Liberia should be held to such a basic assumption of possession.
Down the flanks, a combination game is being played.
Nigeria has impressed with promising link-up play in wide areas at times, and if they can do so again, they will have a better chance of opening up the Lone Stars.
Chidera Ejuke and Jamilu Collins stood out against Cape Verde, causing significant issues for the home side’s defense in the first half of the 2-1 victory.
The African giant’s chances will be aided by cultivating more on-pitch partnerships.
The battle for midfield
After last month’s midfield disaster, it goes without saying that Wilfred Ndidi and Alex Iwobi’s comeback is timely.
The Leicester City defender’s proclivity for suffocating hazardous situations will be advantageous to Rohr’s team, while Alex Iwobi’s presence will aid the West Africans in moving the ball into the attacking third.
Both players immediately helped the three-time African champions in two key areas, boosting their chances against Algeria on Saturday.
Victor Osimhen and Kelechi Iheanacho have carried the can in recent internationals, and their performance will determine whether Nigeria succeeds or fails.
With the stakes this high, the Super Eagles need to deliver, and Samuel Chukwueze’s return adds to an impressive collection of decisive players in their ranks.