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Africa U-23 Championship: Siasia, game management solutions and his Dream Team

They say it is only a fool that does the same thing time and time again but expects a different result. This is in no way calling Samson Siasia a fool [in actual fact, he is very intelligent] but the way his team has prosecuted the last two matches in Senegal portends to this analogy.

When the team collapsed in the second half of their first match against Mali last Sunday, we thought it was just one of those days when things do not go the right way. But when the pattern was repeated [with a more devastating result] against Egypt on Wednesday, it became a cause for alarm.

Having gone over the two matches again [without the live tension], I was able to come to these conclusions:

The team has to change its pre-match [half-time] routine

In team preparation for matches, the pre-match routines actually determine the tempo with which the players start. The two matches have shown that the players need a better start. Even though we scored three and two goals against Mali and Egypt respectively, the truth has been that the Nigerian lads have started slower than their opponents.

The two fullbacks need to learn positioning

Seth Sincere and Udo Ndifreke have times without number been caught with balls behind and have not moved up with their central defenders in time to set up offside traps. The coach needs to fine-tune their positioning within the training regiment so that they can perform like clock-work. Three of the four goals that have been conceded by the team have been by balls behind the two full backs.

The team needs a clear cut defensive midfielder

While Okechukwu Azubuike [the captain of the team] had a better all-round performance against Egypt, he still showed too much forward tendencies, which ultimately exposed his defence. When he went forward, the other midfielders – Mohammed Usman and Oghenekaro Etebo were also found in forward positions. A situation that clearly shows that the onus is on attacking, a good trait, but if you are conceding as much as you are scoring, then there is no use!

The team needs better technical defensive training

The best teams – whether in league formats or in tournaments are the set of 11 players, who understand that defending starts from the front. The four players called defenders are not solely defenders but are those whose main priority is to ensure that their goal is not breached. The other six players also have defensive duties but which is not their main priority.

And the type of defensive organisation needed can only be achieved on the training ground as the players continuously work with their coaches to fine-tune their approach.

The team needs a better bench

Chizoba Amaefule came into the team that started against Egypt – to replace former U-17 World Cup winner, Zaharadden Bello, was all over the place and for a central defender, his lack of pace is a real worry. And even though we still have Victor Osimhen on the bench, the substitutes that have been thrown on in the first two matches have showed that we need a better bench – but we may necessarily get that until we get in the other foreign professionals that are expected to join, but first we have to qualify for Rio with this present team.

Two games, four goals conceded does not reflect the ambition and the tag of Dream Team VI, unless they want to actually remain dreamers and the ticket to the Olympic Games in Rio next year, a mirage.

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