Nigeria vs Mali: 3 important things we learnt from 2-0 defeat to Les Aigles

Iwobi shines again. Question mark over Finidi. || Image credit: Imago

Nigeria vs Mali: 3 important things we learnt from 2-0 defeat to Les Aigles

Faruq Ibrahim 01:47 - 27.03.2024

Three major takeaways from the disappointing 2-0 defeat to Les Aigles of Mali.

The Super Eagles failed to string wins together after the impressive 2-1 victory over Ghana days ago, as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Les Aigles of Mali.

Here are three things we learned from the disappointing result:

Iwobi is a star

Alex Iwobi continues to show that the AFCON outing was only a blip in his impressive season, an aberration that is no fault of his.

The Fulham midfielder has quite possibly been the best player for the Cottagers this season, but injury woes in the centre of the park saw him deployed out of position for Nigeria in Ivory Coast. That hindered his performance and attracted vitriolic criticism.

Alex Iwobi of Fulham | Credit: X
Alex Iwobi of Fulham | Credit: X

However, his showings after the tournament for Fulham and this international break for the Super Eagles continue to turn his doubters into worshippers. 

After his masterclass against the Black Stars, the former Everton man put up another clinic against Mali. Although the Super Eagles lost, Iwobi was involved in everything positive for Nigeria. 

Dessers failed to grab his opportunity

The Super Eagles are replete with attacking talents but found themselves scrapping bare bones this international window given the spate of injuries. Injuries to the top-favoured Victor Osimhen, Taiwo Awoniyi and Victor Boniface, and the inexplicable omission of Terem Moffi, meant the next tier of talents in the position had a chance to gain prominence in national team dynamics.

Rangers’ Cyriel Dessers falls into this category but has failed to stake his claim for future invitations over two matches. Although he scored against Ghana, it was from the penalty spot, and he should have had at least one before and possibly a couple after his 38th-minute strike from 12 yards out.

Cyriel Dessers celebrating his goal against Ghana with the team (Photo Credit: Oganla Media/X)
Cyriel Dessers celebrating his goal against Ghana with the team (Photo Credit: Oganla Media/X)

The Belgium-born striker showed profligacy in the clash against Mali as well, missing crucial chances that could have changed the outcome for Nigeria.

Jury still out on Finidi 

The NFF’s search for Jose Peseiro’s replacement is the worst-kept secret in the business. An online ad was even put out in that regard. Enyimba boss and NPFL champion Finidi George was one of those who threw their hats in the ring. Given his assistant coach role under Peseiro and the need to have a man in the dugouts for the international friendlies, the Real Betis legend was handed the reins of the Super Eagles on an interim basis.

Nigeria vs Ghana
Super Eagles interim coach Finidi George. | Imago Finidi George made some tactical alterations in Nigeria's win over Ghana (Imago)

The games against Mali and Ghana were to serve as some sort of audition, and although the victory over the Black Stars was impressive enough to immediately attract calls for him to get the role permanently, the showing against Les Aigles calls for further evaluation.

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