Player – Efe Ambrose
Match – Nigeria v Iran
Arena da Baixada
Well this game was about as entertaining as watching Scotland under Craig Levein. Prior to the match the talk was of Nigeria becoming the first African team to reach a World Cup semi-final. Then kick off came and the reality soon sunk in that the most exciting World Cup since 1982 was about to produce a game of stultifying boredom.
To be fair Nigeria did start brightly with Eminike and Moses interchanging at speed to cause problems for the defence. Well they did this once! Iran sat back in the best Cardigan tradition and dealt easily with Nigeria’s very slow build up. Sadly, Efe wasn’t immune to this. His positional discipline was very good throughout the game where he hugged the right touchline in his full back role. His passing though was still that of a centre half (other than exceptions like George Connelly or Virgil Van Dijk) ie under ten yards, normally to Mikel or Oboabona, who then, eventually, hit a speculative long ball to an Iranian defender.
In the second half Efe played further up the pitch and, on occasions, his team mates noticed this and passed a ball out wide. Sadly, out of six crosses attempted by Efe only one was half(ish) decent. As Lennon said in the post match analysis…that’s why we don’t play him at full back! Iran occasionally crossed the half way line in the second half but never really threatened to score. Nigeria virtually played the whole game in Iran’s half with 70% possession but , like Iran, never really threatened to score, Eventually after what seemed like many hours stuck on my sofa, the final whistle went which produced a huge cheer from the fans in the stadium (who were actually amazingly engaged). Nigeria are the champions of Africa and, as such, there must be a lot more to this team than we saw tonight. They will need to improve very quickly though to make the last 16 never mind the semis.
Player Rating 2/5
It probably should have been 1/5 but I gave Efe a bonus point for not causing any bomb scare moments!