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B-A-R-R-E-N!Eagles 0 Saudi Arabia 0

By Jacob Ajom
The national team yesterday held their Saudi Arabian counterparts to a goalless draw in a pre-World Cup warm-up match played in Wattens, Austria.

TUNE-UP ... Nigeria’s Lukman Haruna, left, and Saudi Arabia’s Abdullatif AlGhannam challenge for the ball during the friendly soccer match between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia in Wattens, Austria, yesterday. It ended in a goalless draw.

The team played a cautious game allowing the Saudis better possession of the ball.Lagerback started the match with Yobo Joseph pairing Elderson Echiejile in the defence, while Danny Shittu and Peter Suswan manned the central defence. Most of the players were unsettled in the game with occasional faulty passes as the Saudis continued to drill them with deft touches and good dribble runs.

The Nigerian team was playing for the first time as a group and it showed in the way they prosecuted the match. There was no proper coordination in both the midfield and the attack.
Surprisingly, Nwankwo Kanu started the match but his presence failed to make the desired effect as the Eagles continued to simply keep the ball away from the danger zone. Victor Anichebe was however inspiring in the half.
The Saudis too did not fare any better as they failed to make good use of their superior ball possession.

The few times the Eagles went forward saw Kalu Uche’s effort stopped by the Saudi keeper in the 22nd minute. The first half ended goalless.

The second half witnessed a lot of changes, particularly by the Nigerian technical bench. This brought about instant improvement as the Lagerback boys intensified their efforts in their search for goals.

Sani Kaita, Obinna Nsofor, Ikechukwu Uche, Obafemi Martins and Peter Utaka were introduced in quick succession, still the Saudis held their grounds and denied the Eagles any clear chance. The Saudis were close to scoring in the 85th minute when the Nigerian defence was torn apart but the striker’s last touch saw the ball miss the upright by inches.

They were again on the prowl, just before the final whistle but were denied the late chance by goalkeeper Austin Ejide who tipped the ball over the bar.


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