Nine things we didn’t see coming from the Nigeria v Libya double header

Odion Ighalo got five goals in two games as Nigeria bashed Libya 4-0 on Saturday in Uyo, and then 3-2 in the reverse fixture in Tunisia.

The games were AFCON qualifiers and with Nigeria almost through to the competition in Cameroon in 2019.

Nigeria no doubt won big over two legs but there were certainly events on the day that no one expected.

I give you nine things about the games that nobody saw coming.

1) Odion Ighalo’s resurgence
Odion Ighalo scores one of his five against Libya
Who would have thunk it? Who would have seen it coming? Ighalo was almost turning into the most vilified Super Eagles player, maybe since Lawrence “Mr. Miss it” Ukaegbu of the Chile 87 Flying Eagles fame with the criticisms turning to insults and then threats.

His goal ratio was low for a center forward player, he had a poor World Cup and didn’t exactly cover himself in glory in the only game played since Russia against Seychelles despite scoring a penalty.

He was the talk of the pundits and it was left to be seen if he would still start in Uyo and better still, flop once again.

As early as the 3rd minute he won a penalty when the Libyan goalkeeper, Fathi Abdaula fouled him in the box.

Ighalo had harassed Abdaula so much that he fumbled a back pass and when Ighalo went past, the keeper, he was brought down.

Ighalo picked himself up to score the spot kick.

In the 58th minute, Ighalo scored again, this time benefitting from an Alex Iwobi through pass.

When the 3rd goal came, it was another breakaway as Iwobi’s through pass to Musa who squared for Ighalo to score at the second time of asking.

By the time this goal came, it was obvious that Ighalo had silenced critics, at least for the now.

Ighalo continued in Tunisia from where he stopped a few days earlier, getting two goals and one assist, including the match winner.

Odion Ighalo is back, but like I asked earlier, who would have thunk it?

2) Jamilu Collins in the starting line up ahead of Idowu
Jamilu Collins

Gernot Rohr has been said to be rigid in his team selection, tactics and general approach, not wanting to change things.

Since after he discovered Bryan Idowu, it has seemed like the Super Eagles had no alternative even though Idowu did not actually wowed Nigerians with his play.

Jamilu Collins in the starting lineup in both legs against Libya was certainly one of the ten things we did not see coming.

His performance on the days, another matter entirely.

3) Ogu finally getting minutes

The debate had been on, and the question was “What can John Ogu do to play for a Gernot Rohr coached side?”
John Ogu
Ogu always gets invited but never to play. During the qualifiers for the last World Cup he was always left on the bench, somethings shockingly with Mikel substituted, he was not picked.

He only got to play against Algeria when the team had already qualified for the World Cup.

At the World Cup even with a three man central defence formation, Ogu was shut out, yet he still honoured invitations and stayed loyal to the team.

With the news of Ogenyi Onazi’s injury pre- game, it seemed pretty straightforward that Ogu would get some game time, a few minutes, maybe? But not according to Rohr.

Ogu was seen warming up but never got to play.

Was he going to play in Tunisia? Certainly not, but he did eventually, coming on late in the game to replace Oghenekaro Etebo in the 75th minute.

Certainly one of those things we did not see coming.

4) Nine points from three games

After the 2-0 loss to South Africa, I am sure very few Nigerians were optimistic of Nigeria’s chances going forward in the AFCON qualifiers.

At that time in the life of the Super Eagles, only one game had been played in the World Cup Qualifiers, a 2-1 win against Zambia in Ndola.

But the fortunes of the team have turned around between then and now. A 3-0 win at Seychelles, a 4-0 win at home to Libya and then 3-2 away to Libya.

The optimism is back.

5) The resignation of Adel Amrouche

This one happened a few days to the first leg but must rank among the things no one saw coming about the Nigeria v Libya double header.

Amrouche had been in the news over comments he made about Nigeria’s penchant for juju a month ago. Though he was “forced” to apologise, it was always going to be heated, especially in Nigeria with the media and fans.

The news of his resignation a few days to the games must have jolted not just the Libyans, but the Nigerians too.

6) Topping the table on Match Day 4

Just like getting nine points from three games after the first day loss against South Africa, it certainly was not expected that the Eagles would be top of the table after match day 4.

Unless of course, the super pundits were so sure the South Africans would fail to beat Seychelles a few days after spanking them 6-0.

7) That Nigeria is now a high scoring side

Who would have thought the Super Eagles would be ranked as a high scoring side so soon after the disaster of the World Cup.

Ten goals in three games including three goals in consecutive road games is as high scoring as a side can get in Africa.

Some may talk about the quality of the opposition, but it is the Super Eagles and we have seen them against same level of opposition but struggle to score.

8)  That Nigerians would accept Alex Iwobi as our number 10
Iwobi taking on the Libyans all by himself
Alex Iwobi played in the much coveted number 10 position in both games against Libya and completely bossed it.

Nigerians have for a while now felt the national team needed a proper number 10 and not John Mikel Obi who plays a different role for his club.

In the absence of Obi, it was Iwobi who was tried in that role and he did himself a lot of favours by acquitting himself well.

Against Libya in Uyo, his passes were causes for concern to the Libyans who found no way to cut them off. In Tunisia he didn’t fare worse as he bossed the game.

A proper number 10 for the Eagles? Mikel Obi’s return against South Africa in November will determine this.

9) That the fear factor will be back

The fear factor is back for the Super Eagles, or isn’t it? After missing out on two consecutive AFCON tournaments, it seemed that the Super Eagles had become an ordinary team in Africa.

Topping her World Cup qualifying group that included Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia did not do enough to bring back the fear factor, especially against the “smaller” teams who always think they can make a statement against Nigeria.

Ten goals in three games against Libya and Seychelles should be enough to announce to the continent that the Super Eagles are back and take no prisoners

The South African should be worried in November.

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