Nigeria’s quarter-final win over South Africa on Wednesday was as exciting as it was vital for the Super Eagles, who in their five previous meetings had failed to find a way past Bafana Bafana.
Every player put in shifts, but for the most part, it was a game of tactical showpiece from both Coaches.
Pride was on the line, bragging rights and a place in the semi-finals were the stakes on the night at the Cairo International Stadium.
So, here’s our rating of every Super Eagles player:
Daniel Akpeyi: 6/10
The Super Eagles goalkeeper didn’t have much to do on the night but credit must go to him for organizing a disciplined back defensive wall.
However, the 32 year-old was breached from a set piece; partly due to defending and his poor reaction.
William Troost-Ekong: 8/10
He netted Nigeria’s winner; evading the Bafana Bafana defenders, well, to bundle the ball into the back of the net. On the other end he was just as solid and pocketed Lebo Mothiba.
Kenneth Omeruo: 8/10
The Center half was busy the entire night sweeping the Super Eagles defensive third; applying himself more as cover for returning Jamilu Collins.
Omeruo showed an excellent ability to read the game and easily displaced Percy Tau, neutralize his attacking threat.
Jamilu Collins: 7/10
Thrown into the fray fresh from an injury setback that kept him out for all of Nigeria’s previous games, Collins showed signs of rustiness.
He struggled in the opening minutes; poor ball control, sluggish reaction, but steadied as it wore on. He grew confident defensively, but his execution up front was suspect.
Chidozie Awaziem: 7.5/10
He hardly put a foot wrong in the entirety of the game and probably suffered as many fouls as Percy Tau; he was soo involved.
Awaziem was solid at the back and wasn’t overwhelmed by the pacy Bafana attackers.
Oghenekaro Etebo: 7.5/10
Less is more! That is the catch phrase fitting of Etebo’s role in the Eagles midfield. He Mobs up behind Ndidi, drops the ball for the attackers and provides cover for the back four.
He was effective in that primary role and showed efficiency. He also stung the goalkeeper with a powerful free kick in the second half, beaten away by Rowen Williams.
Wilfred Ndidi: 8/10
Ndidi was a warhorse in the midfield. Aggressive, tenacious and efficient.
He was the anchor that held the Nigerian team solid and the vital component deployed by Gernot Rohr to flip the game strategy against South Africa.
Ahmed Musa: 7/10
He had space to exploit; always on the front foot against his marker. Unfortunately, the Speedster didn’t make much of the opportunities presented him.
His incursive runs yielded little albeit it put the Bafana defence on alert and on their toes with every burst.
Musa was let down by his final balls and overall decision making in the attacking third.
He was soo near, yet soo far from doing anything great in the game.
Thus, no surprise he was replaced with the team chasing a win with 9 minutes left, plus he appeared off pace on his defensive duties.
Alex Iwobi: 7.5/10
He would have grabbed himself an assist had Samuel Chukwueze’s first attempt on goal had not been blocked.
But he had a lively evening with some smart runs picking the ball from deep or the half-way line.
His most significant contribution, oddly, was his defensive duties – pressing and relentlessly so.
Iwobi slowed down any transition or build up from the South Africa defenders, he was effective at it.
Samuel Chukwueze: 8.5/10
His pace and trickery made him a threat and the most exciting player on the ball at any time.
He whizzed past markers and was an option where ever – evident in how he popped up inside the box to fire past Williams for the game’s opener.
Odion Ighalo: 7/10
His night was quite a task. Holding up play, forcing the defenders off the grid and winning fouls – when the Referee saw it fit.
Ighalo was essentially denied a chance at goal by the hard working South African defence.
But it was a poor attempt by the forward to defend a free-kick that led to Nigeria conceding – and it was harsh on him and a defense that was resolute until that moment.
Moses Simon: 7/10
The winger scrimmaged just 9 minutes of regular time, but it was quite an effective first 8 minutes.
A failed attempt to beat a defender on the near side, was followed up by a more intelligent feint and dash – which resulted into a corner kick.
Simon’s corner kick dropped kindly for Ekong and in that moment the game was decided.
Leon Balogun: 5/10
Balogun got minutes, in additional time, to reinforce the defense – from a high-line. He did just enough.
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