Nigeria became the first African country to book a ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia following a hard-fought 1-0 win over Zambia on Saturday.
Arsenal playmaker, Alex Iwobi, grabbed the only goal of the game, barely eight minutes after coming on for Moses Simon.
Despite the victory, there’s still a whole lot of improvement going into the tournament proper.
Here are four things we learnt from that nail-biting encounter at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo.
- No Onazi, big problem
There have been several calls for Trabzonspor midfielder, Ogenyi Onazi, to be dropped by Gernot Rohr. But, that appears to be a futile appeal judging by how the midfield crumbled in his absence against Zambia. Onazi was forced off in the first half after suffering a knock, replaced by Mikel Agu. However, the team never seemed to recover afterwards.
- Echiejile struggles all the time
Going into every game the Eagles play, one can blindly spot the weakest link in the team. That’s Elderson Echiejile. A talented and skilful defender on his day, but it seems as though those days are now in the past. As always, the Sivasspor man looked shaky, failing to find answers each time the Zambians came calling.
- Future bright for Zambian football
That’s because of the 11 players that started for the visitors, only six were present last year when the Super Eagles defeated them in Ndola. Coach Wedson Nyirenda opted to replace the old guns with a couple of the lads that won the CAF U-20. They may be out of the running for Russia but the future certainly looks bright for the Southern Africans.
- Iwobi coming of age
Finally, Iwobi is proving to Nigerians just why there’s so much hype around him at Arsenal. Since making his debut in 2015, Iwobi hasn’t really thrilled with his performances for his country. But when it mattered most, the youngster actually did step up to deliver the goods. If he continues this way, you can bet on him forcing veterans like Mikel Obi out of the team.