In their last 10 home matches, the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde have won four, drawn four, and lost twice. The two losses were to Africa’s top-ranked country, Senegal, expectedly (0-2) and to Guinea (1-2).
The last time the Super Eagles of Nigeria lost any qualifier on the continent was a 1-0 loss to Egypt in 2016. If the Eagles want to continue that unbeaten streak that has seen them go nine matches without a loss, they must cut out these five mistakes.
Do not let the ball bounce
On a plastic pitch, the ball will not bounce naturally. The split second lost to assumptions could lead to danger, especially when the team is defending. The rule of ‘no bouncing’ must be the watchword, especially near the Nigerian box where Cape Verde forwards will try to nip in and pinch the ball or get soft fouls. If in doubt, kick the ball to safety and reset.
Win the physical battle
In the first match played away against the Central African Republic, the Sharks showed their aggressive and physical nature. They will be even more physical on their own turf, hoping a bit of home advantage will be advanced to them by the referee. The Eagles must stand up to this and dish out their own physicality.
Use balls behind the defence
Victor Osimhen will always stretch defences because of his ability to run the channels and that is one area that cannot be totally defended. It will do the Eagles very well to try and get balls to their No.9 at every possible opportunity. A dribble and a pass should be the go-to tactics, especially to the midfielders.
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Ensure not to concede an early goal
The best way to douse a home side’s momentum and hope is to score early against them but the flip side is also true. The Eagles can dampen the home side’s tempo by slowing the ball down and not conceding an early goal. While this situation cannot be totally controlled, it is best said that an away side should try not to concede in the first 15 minutes.
‘Rondo’ ball must be the strategy
The Eagles must be in ‘rondo’ mode as much as possible on Tuesday afternoon on the artificial Estádio Municipal Aderito Sena pitch in Mindelo. One-touch should be the watchword, using space and quick transitions to keep the Cape Verde players running around. No matter how physically energetic they are, if they are continuously chasing the ball, they will be unable to execute their own strategy.