Goal.com profiles a quintet of Nigerian players who have the quality to hurt the Europeans in Tuesday’s international friendly billed for London.
Having vanquished the third and sixth-ranked teams in the world in their last two international friendlies, the Super Eagles will turn to the rather more mundane task of Serbia, 34th in the Fifa rankings, on Tuesday.
Of course, things are never that simple in football, which is what adds to its appeal. Nigeria, after all, are ranked as low as 52nd, and while Friday’s smash-and-grab in Poland will have no doubt done the belief and confidence of this young Nigerian team the world of good, no one is getting carried away just yet.
Serbia are themselves coming off a slightly unfortunate loss to Morocco, and will be hoping for a better outing against another African opponent. However, if that encounter was anything to go by, the Serbs, for all their organization and compactness in midfield, do have a tendency to switch off at the back. If they do, here are five Super Eagles players who could punish them.
- Odion Ighalo
The Changchun Yatai striker did not hit the mark against Poland, as he was rather starved of service.
However, if Gernot Rohr elects to give him another start, he may stand to profit.
At this point, it is pretty clear Ighalo will be the Super Eagles’ primary forward in Russia. At his best, Ighalo can be a real handful, especially against a Serbia backline that is not the quickest, and is still getting to grips with the subtle changes being made by Mladen Krstajic.
2. Kelechi Iheanacho
Tuesday represents a chance for Iheanacho to redeem himself in the wake of a less-than-stellar showing on Friday, and the Leicester man has not played two poor matches in a row for the national team.
His ability to arrive in the right place at the right time remains an inimitable asset, as is his technical prowess.
With Serbia less aggressive with their defensive line, Iheanacho may get time to put his foot on the ball and get his head up.
If he does, it could make all the difference.
3. Moses Simon
Unlike the first two on this list, Simon did not start against the Poles, and so has something of a blank slate.
His raw pace and dribbling ability brings to the table qualities that are not replicated elsewhere in the squad.
More pertinently, he faces a fight for his place in the starting lineup, having not started a game since qualifying.
Expect him to carry the fight to the Serbians, and do real damage down the right flank, where he will likely come up against the less than athletic Aleksandar Kolarov.
4. John Ogu
As mentioned earlier, the Serbians are very compact in the middle third, and so there is potential for an almighty scrap in midfield.
This is where the inclusion of John Ogu could prove valuable. The Hapoel Be’er Sheva midfielder is perhaps the best midfield passer in the squad, and so should provide a semblance of control and calm in the eye of the storm.
As an added boon, Ogu has a left foot that can open a can of beans.
In a tight encounter, his ability to crack one from long range could serve either as the ideal ice-breaker, or the decider.
5. Tyronne Ebuehi
The fresh-faced full-back is likely to earn his first start for the national team on Tuesday, having only previously made two sub appearances.
Ebuehi provides an attacking dimension that has been absent from full-back for quite a while with the national team.
His introduction back in the November friendly win over Argentina was crucial to the second-half turnaround, and one might say he is long overdue a shot from the start. His forward impetus may be the key that unlocks Serbia, and would present something of a curveball for the opposition.