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Just How Tough Is the Nigerian Soccer Team?

Posted January. 08, 2010 02:19,   


The Nigerian soccer team, which plays Korea in their final Group B game of the World Cup finals in South Africa June 23, held a scoreless scrimmage against Zambia in Durban yesterday.

The Dong-A Ilbo was the first Korean media organization to see a game played by one of Korea’s opponents in the World Cup.

○ Europe-based players

Nigeria will field its best players for the first time since the African regional qualifiers for both the World Cup and the African Cup of Nations that opens in Angola Sunday.

More than half of its starters play in Europe. Yakubu Aiyegbeni of Everton and Obafemi Martins of Wolfsburg (Germany) were Nigeria’s strikers while Obi Mikel of Chelsea, Dickson Etuhu of Fulham, and Kalu Uche of Almeria (Spain) manned the midfield. The defenders were Taye Taiwo of Marseille (France), Obinna Nwaneri of FC Sion (Switzerland), and Joseph Yobo of Everton. Nwankwo Kanu of Portsmouth also played from the 55th minute.

After watching the game, the Korean national team`s assistant coach Park Tae-ha said the Nigerians’ physical conditions were great with an average height of more than 185 centimeters (six feet), well-balanced bodies, elastic muscles, and superb flexibility.

The national team`s technical analyst Kim Se-yoon, who also watched the game, said the sound of the Nigerian players kicking the ball is different because of their extraordinary ball control. He said they also exhibited a high playing ability.

○ No breakthrough players

Nigeria also showed its weaknesses in the draw against Zambia, which will play Korea in a friendly Saturday. Despite their name value and excellent physical condition, the Nigerians failed to make an impression on the field yesterday.

Experts said Nigeria had no player who made a breakthrough in the game. Yakubu failed to show the explosive play in his heyday, while Martins had a hard time chasing the ball possibly due to an injury.

Park said Kanu and other leading Nigerian strikers are past their prime, with the African country lacking experienced forwards.

Midfield defenders were not quick to react against Zambia, allowing strikers to make penetrating passes behind them. Nigeria also showed sluggish ball control, facing a few dangerous moments in the middle of the game. Wings failed to help on defense, putting more pressure on defenders.

Kim said Korea can pin its hopes on strikers such as Park Chu-young, who can penetrate and elude defenders on the flanks with his speed.

Nigeria is also considered to lack a proper strategy. Coach Shuaibu Amodu appeared frustrated throughout the Zambia game given the ineffectiveness of his tactics, which left Nigeria with few measures to cope with Zambia’s tough pressure and cooperative defense.

Experts say, however, that Korea must not underestimate Nigeria. Considering that each Nigerian player’s extraordinary physical condition and ability, Park said a victory by Korea will depend on how its team plays.