Alex Iwobi’s 73rd minute strike, means that Nigeria became the first African country, to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
What are the five things we learnt from the game at the Godswill Akpabio Internationl Stadium?
1. Rohr to Russia: A lot of eyebrows were raised, when the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) appointed Gernot Rohr, as the head coach of the Super Eagles. Well, look who has taken the team to next year’s World Cup! The German coach has shown tactical acumen, leading Nigeria through the qualifying campaign without defeat so far and making fans believe in the team again.
2. Alexander the Great: For a large portion of the match, Nigeria were devoid of intelligence and inspiration. Zambia obviously didn’t come to Uyo, to admire the stunning stadium and the beautiful scenery. Wedson Nyirenda’s men meant business and went toe-to-toe with their hosts, troubling them with their rapid breaks. However, Rohr summoned Iwobi from the bench and all that changed. The Arsenal man wrestled back control of the game and ended up scoring the winner.
3. The wrong Mikel: For all of the Rohr praise above, it was a shock to see him replace the injured Onazi Ogenyi with Mikel Agu. The FC Porto midfielder struggled to catch up with the pace of the game and picked up a yellow in his first few minutes on the pitch. One wonders why Etebo Oghenekaro or John Ogu didn’t get the nod instead.
4. Well done, Zambia: They might have been defeated, but hats off to the Chipolopolo. For coming this far, with their young and fearless squad. Nyirenda’s men caused Nigeria a lot of trouble on Saturday, after beating Algeria home and way in the last round of matches. I wouldn’t be surprised if they qualify for the next World Cup.
5. The preparation starts now: Zambia proved to all, including the watching NFF officials, that every game will not always be a walk in the park. It is not to early to start preparing hard for the World Cup. June is around the corner. Rohr has to look at the left-back spot, where every wide man seems to get the beating of Elderson Echiejile and see if Ola Aina can step up to the plate. Also, a decent back-up for Odiobn Ighalo is needed. An upgrade on Onazi too.