The U-23 national team are not called the Dream Team for nothing – the first Dream Team, led by Nwankwo Kanu, dreamt all the way to gold in 1996 – and this team led by Samson Siasia and Mikel Obi can match Kanu’s record but first they have to take a giant step against Germany in Sao Paulo…
Do not concede too many free kicks or corners
Against a ‘weak’ Denmark team, the Dream Team conceded eight corner kicks but even though the Germans have scored 19 goals [10 against Fiji], they have not scored any from a direct set piece. This does not mean that they would not start against Nigeria, because they are supposed to be technically suave and superior to their African opponents.
Play a double pivot in midfield
Azubuike Okechukwu is suspended for the semi-final and we have lost Oghenekaro Etebo to injury, so the advise to Siasia would be to play right back, Usman Mohammed in Azubuike’s place and ensure that Mikel stays more defensively-minded. The coaching crew should expect to have less time on the ball as it was against Denmark but they must ensure that there are no lone presses in midfield. When the team presses, all the players must press in unison, so as not to create gaps through which the Germans could exploit.
Play with two central attackers
The Germans conceded five goals in their first two games and if not for late heroics from Serge Gnabry, they would not have made it into the second round. So, there is a weakness in the central defensive pairing of Niklas Suele and Matthias Ginter, who showed against Mexico and Korea that they do not enjoy playing against direct runners. Siasia should play Sadiq Umar and Aminu Umar with Imoh Ezekiel on the left flank to expose this weakness and to always have numbers in the box when the Nigerian team attacks.
Discipline without the ball
It is not only important that the Dream Team know what to do on the ball but more importantly that they do not daydream without the ball. Running off the ball to create space for another teammate is a distinct feature of the modern game, so whether in possession or out of possession, the players need to cover the miles. They must also ensure that they match the Germans for intensity throughout all 90 minutes and extra time if needed.
One thing that the U-23 have showed consistently in the four games played in Brazil is the propensity to drop off – to let their rhythm slacken or diminish. Against one of the super powers, Siasia has to ensure that the message to stay alert and concentrated resonates with all the players.
This are just pieces of advice for the technical team even though they definitely know more about managing the game than we do but as Nigerians, who want something to cheer, we could not stand aside and do nothing. We wish this team the best of luck.
– Jide Alaka (FCnaija.com)