Player ratings as Nigeria remain only perfect team at AFCON
Player ratings as Nigeria maintain 100% start to AFCON campaign.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria ended their group stage campaign with aplomb as they put two unreplied goals past a vociferous Guinea-Bissau side on Wednesday.
In what was supposed to be a routine victory over another African underdog following their easy victory over Sudan, the captain of Guinea-Bissau breathed fire into the clash when he reportedly wished death upon his team if they lost to Nigeria.
Their confidence didn't permeate onto the field of play though, as despite the table-toppers heavily altering their lineup, they controlled proceedings in the early stages of the game.
An opening unfurled for the Eagles in the first half when former eaglet skipper, Kelechi Nwakali, slipped Sadiq Umar behind the Djurtus' rearguard.
But the Almeria striker took one too many touches in an attempt to shift onto his stronger right foot, before eventually conceding possession.
Four minutes before the hour mark, the breakthrough finally arrived when a sumptuous outside-the-boot pass from Iheanacho landed delicately for Sadiq, who couldn't miss from two yards out.
It turned out to be his last contribution as he was subbed off for Peter Olayinka, while a potent but relatively quiet Ejuke was withdrawn for Nigeria's last MOTM, Moses Simon.
It was the latter who added the needed bite to knock the wind out of the Guineans.
The Nantes man who has emerged as Nigeria's danger man, was a handful for the West African neighbors, as he seamlessly weaved through them with mind-blowing ease.
With 25 minutes to play, Moses beat several players before striking the woodwork in what would have been a goal of the tournament contender.
However, he found respite in the fact that the rebound fell kindly for Troost-Ekong who netted his first national goal since 2019.
The Guineans caused a scare of their own following a goalkeeping error from second-choice Uzoho who palmed a long-range effort back into traffic. Fortunately for the Cyprus-based man, his defence showed good reaction to save his blushes.
Guinea-Bissau were also denied a penalty, when Troost-Ekong's dangling arm altered the trajectory of a goalbound free-kick in the second half. Ignorant of this, there were no shouts from either the players or VAR, with the scoreline then at a 1-0 knife-edge.
The win marked the first time since 2006 that Nigeria will win all of their group stage games, a tournament where they finished third. Interestingly they also achieved this feat under Austin Eguavoen.
The Eagles are also the only side in this year's AFCON with a perfect win record.
Super Eagles Player Ratings
Francis Uzoho - 6.5
Wasn't free of error, with his poor save in the dying embers of the game showing why he was rooted behind Maduka Okoye. Otherwise, a quiet evening.
William Troost-Ekong 7.0
One of just three players to maintain their spot in the starting lineup after the overhaul. Was impregnable in defence, making 4 defensive contributions.
It was however his contribution in front of goal that was the most worthwhile, as he put Nigeria a breathable distance ahead of the Guineans heading into the last quarter-hour.
Semi Ajayi - 6.5
Would give the manager quite a selection headache heading into the knockouts. His height advantage and ball-playing skills were a contrasting difference from the more ruthless Omeruo.
He made the second most clearances, second most interceptions and won the sole aerial duel he was faced with. Had a chance for a dream competitive debut when he rose highest to meet Nwakali's in-swinger but could only head wide.
Tyronne Ebuehi - 6.0
Was both adept when defending and attacking, but won only 25 percent of his duels. His outing wouldn't have troubled Ola Aina, who was ZonalSports' MOTM against Egypt.
Jamilu Collins - 7.0
Showed why he finished as the Bundesliga’s best tackler in his last stint in the competition.
An absolute brick wall of a player, Jamilu made the most interceptions and third-most tackles, in combination he made the joint-most defensive actions in the game.
Wilfred Ndidi - 6.5
His most commanding outing yet at the AFCON. Missing his ever-present midfield partner in Aribo, with whom he shared defensive duties, the Leicester man rose to the occasion.
With his game-high 7 tackles against Bissau, Ndidi has now completed the most tackles (14) at AFCON 2021.
Kelechi Nwakali - 6.5
A breathe of fresh air in the set-piece department, Nwakali is without a doubt Nigeria's best man for long-range passing or shooting.
He has completed 77.78 percent of his long balls (7) in the competition, with 4 of those coming against Guinea-Bissau.
His creativity is also a good resource to call on off the bench as he created at least three massive goal-scoring chances, two of which fell to Ajayi and Sadiq.
Although, his qualities off the ball is deficient, labouring Ndidi with excess workload as well as poor awareness, he is one of Nigeria's best with ball at feet.
Nonetheless, Nwakali has failed to win a single tackle in all of his senior appearances for Nigeria.
Alex Iwobi - 6.0
One of Nigeria's mainstay in the previous Africa Cup of Nations, Iwobi is no more than a squad player at this year's competition.
However with every game that passes, the Everton man raises more questions than answers as to his usefulness to the team.
Against Guinea-Bissau, Iwobi made
- 0 tackles,
- 0 interceptions
- 0 duels won,
- 0 chances created
- 0 successful crosses,
- 0 successful dribbles,
- 1 blocked shot,
- 3 fouls committed,
- 42 touches,
- 2nd worst passing accuracy (among starters)
This was despite getting a full run-out.
Chidera Ejuke - 6.5
For a player who earns his reputation on being explosive, this was a very subdued performance from the otherwise expressive Chidera Ejuke.
Not one to shy away from opponents, the CSKA star completed 4 dribbles, the second most in the game.
However, it was his industry at the back that helped Nigeria to a clean sheet as he made 4 tackles, with only Ndidi managing more.
Kelechi Iheanacho - 7.0
Another game, another goal contribution. Iheanacho was the only attacker to maintain his spot from the victory against Sudan.
And manager Eguavoen’s faith in the 25-year-old was justified when he turned out to be the key that finally cracked the Guinea-Bissau puzzle with a deft pinpoint pass.
No player created more chances in-game than the Leicester man.
Sadiq Umar - 6.5
Without his opener, the night might have turned out far worse for Umar Sadiq than it actually did. A nervous performance typified by clumsiness and poor decisions, the 25-year-old had a torrid first hour against Guinea-Bissau.
Although his missed chance could be attributed to a blocked path to goal, his propensity to drop deep afforded the Bissau rearguard with too little to do.
His first senior national goal couldn't have come at a better time, as he was immediately withdrawn for an injection of pace and mobility.
Moses Simon - 7.5 MOTM
The best player in the fixture and Nigeria's best player at AFCON, Moses Simon is a shadow of the much-maligned player he used to be under Gernot Rohr.
His seven dribbles completed in just 30 minutes means he is the competition's take-on king.
Although the woodwork denied him one of the tournament's best goal, his nifty footwork would be entombed in the annals of AFCON history, after Ekong converted the rebound.
Peter Olayinka - 6.0
Pressed the Guinean defence well and had many opportunities to run at them in counter-attacks but was dispossessed far too often.
Frank Onyeka - 6.5
Afforded his first minutes at a tournament for Nigeria, but showed enough quality to question the manager's decision to leave him on the bench for this long.
In just 10 minutes, he made three tackles, the third-most in the game as he relieved Ndidi off a lot of defensive burden.
Henry Onyekuru - N/A
Showed flashes of brilliance, but was afforded two little time to warrant a rating.