Nigeria vs. Scotland: 6 Things We Learned
As a spectacle, Wednesday’s friendly between Nigeria and Scotland had it all.
Charlie Mulgrew (yes, Charlie Mulgrew) opened the scoring for Scotland with a delightful backheel, and Nigeria fought back from behind—twice—to earn a 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage.
But as a World Cup preparation match for the Super Eagles, the contest was rather disappointing.
Scotland dominated large swaths of possession, and with many of his regulars either on the bench or not involved Nigeria manager Stephen Keshi will likely have come out of the encounter with more questions than answers.
Here, in ascending order, are the six biggest takeaways from the match.
6. Austin Ejide Is Very Much the Backup Goalkeeper
It was made abundantly clear on Wednesday that Vincent Enyeama will start between the sticks for Nigeria at the upcoming World Cup.
The Lille goalkeeper’s stand-in—Austin Ejide—never looked comfortable against Scotland, although he didn’t have much of a chance on either the Mulgrew backheel or Azubuike Egwuekwe’s own goal.
He even appeared to try to swat the ball into his own net—an act that only reinforced the notion that the match might be fixed, as reported by BBC Sport.
Enyeama is experienced, decorated and has the faith of his teammates. He’ll be the No. 1 man in Brazil.
5. Joel Obi’s Display
It’s unlikely that Joel Obi is in Keshi’s first-team plans, and after making a shaky start against Scotland it seemed as though he’d be withdrawn to the abuse of the Nigerian fans at Craven Cottage.
But the 23-year-old settled nicely into the match, and his display in the centre of the park will have no doubt impressed his manager.
The Inter Milan midfielder eventually looked calm and composed in possession, making good use of his more attack-minded teammates.
As a backup to his preferred XI, Keshi could do a lot worse than Obi.
4. Scotland’s Defensive Struggles
For all the things they did right on Wednesday, the Scottish defense made a few too many mistakes for manager Gordon Strachan’s liking.
On Nwofor Uche’s 90th-minute equaliser in particular, central defenders Grant Hanley and Gordon Greer each played themselves out of position, gifting the Heerenveen forward a clear shot on goal.
One positive for Strachan will have been the play of right-back Alan Hutton, who recovered from an early giveaway to put in an effective 90 minutes on the flank.
3. Nigeria Missed Their Field Marshal
Nigeria just aren’t the same side in the absence of John Obi Mikel.
Sure, the likes of Ogenyi Onazi, Ahmed Musa and Emmanuel Emenike were also missing, but without Mikel running the show in the centre of the park the Super Eagles were too easily cut open by Scotland.
A peripheral figure at Premier League giants Chelsea, Mikel is very much the main man for the Super Eagles, and his performance in Brazil will be absolutely pivotal in how Nigeria fare.
2. Hopeful Times for Scotland
Scotland will open their Euro 2016 qualification campaign on September 7 against Germany, and given their recent performances—including the draw with Nigeria—they have reason to hope that a place in the tournament proper might be theirs for the taking.
In Allan McGregor they have a reliable presence in goal, and midfielders Scott Brown, James Morrison and George Boyd all impressed at times against the Super Eagles.
Watford midfielder Ikechi Anya also looked bright, while forward Chris Martin came close to scoring his first senior goal on his international debut.
Overall, Scotland played attractive, quick-moving football, and Wednesday’s draw was probably a harsh reflection of their performance.
1. Nigeria Have Work to Do
Given Keshi’s experimentation, Wednesday’s draw with Scotland was difficult to interpret for Nigeria.
They certainly looked more dangerous when Victor Moses and Peter Odemwingie were introduced, but for long stretches the Super Eagles didn’t even look to be a scoring threat, while their defense was a mess.
As reigning African champions, Nigeria will be under considerable pressure at the World Cup, but their sloppy, disjointed showing at Craven Cottage will have convinced no one that they can get out of their group.
Keshi likely has a good idea of who will line up against Iran, but few players involved against Scotland will have done their starting chances any favours.
The coming together of an international team is a process, but the biggest takeaway for Keshi will be that his side have some distance to go in that regard.