Is Keshi Brave Enough To Drop Mikel? Obanya Asks

Mikel Obi“The Super Eagles (seem to) choose how to play depending on their opponents and the sight of Di Maria, Higuain and Messi made them raise their game on Wednesday, except for Mikel Obi.”

Sports Journalist, Nnamdi Obanya, said this on Thursday in a conversation with Channels Television’s Chamberlain Usoh on Sunrise Daily.

Providing a post-mortem of Nigeria’s last group game versus Argentina at the World Cup which ended in a 3-2 loss, Obanya said that despite the Eagles’ shaky start in the game they did well by responding quickly to Argentina’s goals.

With Nigeria having qualified for the second round despite the loss, his only fear, however, is if the Super Eagles would be able to repeat the same impressive performance against France because in the Argentina match “there were fortunate moments for us (although) there were unfortunate moments for us (as well).”

He opined that the two goals scored by Ahmed Musa were down to his personal instinct and not necessarily products of the team’ s strategy.

He explained that the team’s coach, Stephen Keshi, usually places Musa on the right but “because of the counter attack and the way it happened, Musa instinctively ran into the left channels which is his (desired) space and credit must go to Emenike and Babatunde for the assists on those goals.”

Speaking further, he said: “Mikel once again did not show up to the party, it’s not enough to play 2 inch passes to the left or to the right or to the player nearest to you.”

Analysing the goals scored by the Argentinians, Obanya said that the Eagles must work on their technical disciple as regards defending set pieces because the lapses could be costly as the second round match against France beckons. However, Obanya cautiously expressed belief that Nigeria could beat the French, “not because Nigeria is so good but because France have their own personal self-destruct buttons.”

Obanya referred to game between France and Ecuador and the inability of the French team to take their chances and take advantage of the Ecuadorians being one man down for a massive period in the game.

He added that Nigeria must not be too happy, however, as the French Coach has said that his team would fight in their next game, obviously upset at the outcome of the last group game in which they played a frustrating scoreless draw.

Making suggestions on how to stop France, Obanya posited that the full backs would have to help in attack but must master the art of tracking back to defend when they lose the ball, as in the Argentina game, both Ambrose Efe and Juwon Oshaniwa got caught out a number of times; again he put the blame on Mikel Obi.

“The reason you have holding midfielders is that when your wing backs go forward, your holding midfielder should drop in-between your two centre-backs, allow them to spread and give your fullbacks time to come back. Now you have a standing 3-man defence at least to cope with whatever is coming.

“If Mikel is going to be so static and sit just in front of the defence, and Onazi has to be the water carrier in the midfield, it means that when there’s an attack, Mikel needs to come back and sit but he’s not marking, he’s not going forward.”

Chamberlain drew attention to the attacking forays of Mikel in the recent games but Obanya believes that “he gets lost just before the final third.”

“As a number 10 or a playmaker, your job is to get in that role and play triangles between the wide man and the striker, so that whoever is the third person in the three behind the striker can act as a second runner into the box or can also hover around.

“(And) If you’re going to sit so deep as a Pirlo, you had better have perfect passes and you have to help out the defence. If you’re not going to sit between the defence when Nigeria is being attacked then it does not pay Nigeria to have you sit in so deep; against France, we can’t afford that.

“I’ve been asking, is Keshi brave enough to drop Mikel?” Obanya said, naming Michael Babatunde as the possible option to come into the number 10 role and let Onazi sit.

Babatunde’s injury in the game against Argentina, however, seemed to have put an end to the role of the midfielder in the 2014 World Cup after being hit by a shot from his teammate, Ogenyi Onazi; an incident Obanya blamed on the non-tactical but more physical nature of the Eagles’ training.

“You’re going to need as much mobility against France; I’m not sure Mikel is that mobile”, Obanya said.

He also suggested the return of Victor Moses to the team as he could be deployed as an attacking midfielder. He noted, “Some players need to be given that liberty to roam.”

Keshi not disturbed with Yobo’s absence

Super Eagle’s Coach, Stephen Keshi, said there is no cause for alarm at the absence of skipper Joseph Yobo just as Chelsea’s midfielder John Mikel Obi joined the team earlier on Wednesday.

Keshi revealed that the medical team at Turkish side Fernabahce have ruled Yobo out of the match against Liberia with a torn cruciate ligament and have put him on medical examination to determine whether he could travel to Nigeria to cheer the team to victory.

Yobo’s knee is reported to have swollen after he played 70 minutes for his Turkish side over the weekend

According to the Eagles Coach, Yobo, spent over one hour on phone with him to confirm he will not be available for this weekend’s crucial tie against the lone star of Liberia.

Yobo played in last month’s 2 all draw in Liberia but was later replaced by Efe Ambrose in the second half.

In June, he missed all three of Nigeria’s Nation’s Cup and World Cup qualifiers against Rwanda, Malawi and Namibia also on account of injury.

Meanwhile Chelsea midfielder Mikel Obi arrived the Metropolitan Hotel camp of the Eagles Wednesday afternoon, after his protracted battle to get a Ukrainian visa for his side’s UEFA Champion’s League game next week.

Mikel said he is fit for the encounter against Liberia to cool off speculations surrounding his availability.

The camp of the Super Eagles in Calabar is bubbling with activity as most of the invited Europe-based players have arrived ahead of the weekend’s 2013 African Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Spokesman of the team, Ben Alaiya, confirmed to Channels Sports that Ambrose Efe, Brown Ideye, Ahmed Musa, Joel Obi, Victor Moses and Ikechukwu Uche have all arrived the training camp. Other are Elderson Echiejile, Obiorah Nwankwo and Onazi Ogenyi have showed up in camp

Alaiya confirmed that only 3 players are still being expected.

Earlier goalkeepers Austin Ejide and Vincent Enyeama as well as Nosa Igiebor joined up with the 7 players from the Nigeria Premier League in a training session