Super Eagles have for the fifth consecutive time lost to World Cup albatross Argentina to crash out of the Russia 2018 World Cup by the first round.
This is the second time the South Americans have stood between a place in the second round of the World Cup and the three-time Africa champions.
Coach Gernot Rohr stuck to his 3-5-2 formation that rekindled hopes with a 2-0 win against Iceland earlier in the group setting, only to capitulate to the fierce Argentina attack, losing 2-1, with just four minutes left on the clock.
Rohr handed Russia-based defender Bryan Idowu his third consecutive start in the crucial Argentina game that the Eagles needed to win or at worse draw to get to the second round.
But that was not to be as the Lionel Messi-inspired Albiceleste struck like a hurricane to deny the Eagles the flight to the next round.
Many watchers blamed Rohr’s tactical approach for the painful loss and wondered why he insisted on Idowu for the entire duration of the game.
Benfica new signing Tyrone Ebuehi, soccer watchers believed, would have contained the rampaging South Americans better and maintain a steady damage control.
Many believed Idowu was completely out of sorts and lacked the engine to limit the ceaseless attack from the left flank out of which the Argentines struck twice to beat the cruising Eagles.
Idowu appeared to have lost steam as well as ideas going forward, a vital area where a younger and more attack-minded Ebuehi would have made a difference.
So, the big question now is: Was Idowu worth sacrificing Ebuehi for? The answer is capital NO!
Could Ebuehi’s sin of giving away a soft penalty against Iceland in the second group game not forgiven to deny him a shot against the bruised Argentina, who were prepared to spill blood to hang on in Russia?
Ebuehi brought some more urgency and quickness to the attack against Iceland and the difference was there for all to see.
Rohr defended his Idowu’s starting and ending the game against Argentina, first being that he was born in Saint Petersburg, where the Eagles engaged their more illustrious adversaries.
Also, he is playing in the Russian Premier for Amkar Perm and familiar with the ground as well as having an edge in terms of experience over Ebuehi.
But sadly, all those didn’t come to play and early trip home was the lot for Nigeria.
What could Ebuehi have done differently? A lot!
Ebuehi could have dared the aggressive Argentines and could easily have won tackles and one-on-one situations and from there advanced to initiate attacks.
Idowu refused to be confident and allowed Messi, Ever Banega and company a world of space to punish and pile pressure on Eagles’ defence.
Most importantly, Ebuehi’s attacking instincts would have sufficed when the Eagles needed a consolidation second goal. He’s never a defender who shy away from initiating attacks and giving the strikers much needed cover and assists.
Ahmed Musa never connected with Idowu and that affected our attack.
When Ebuehi isn’t connecting passes to Musa and company in the attack, he also finds time to deliver crosses. He has done that a lot for Eagles and that was seriously lacking in the game against Argentina.
A vintage Ebuehi could have found time and space to swing his delightful crosses for Musa, Odion Ighalo or Victor Moses to try their luck at goal.
What about urgency? Ebuehi’s stock in trade! He never wastes time to initiate attacks and connects strikers for quickness. This could possibly have afforded the Eagles some chance at goal and a second goal against the South Americans could have killed off any chance of coming back to level terms with time ticking away fast.
In truth, Rohr really got it all wrong and should take responsibility.