By Israel Igiri
It was a great weekend of international football as we saw interesting and keenly contested battles across various continents of the world. From the various matches played across Europe, America, down to Africa and the rest of the world, here are three things we learned.
Dream Come Through for Madagascar
It is celebration galore in Madagascar following their first ever Africa Cup of Nations’ qualification on Tuesday. Njiva Rakotoharimalala’s first half effort handed the Indian Ocean Islanders a 1-0 victory over Equatorial Guinea, putting an end to a 46-year wait for an appearance in the continental biennial football showpiece.
Having seemed impossible all these years, the Bereans have always dreamt of playing at AFCON, and while it had seemed impossible all these years, they never gave up. They kept hope alive because they believed that what the mind can conceive, can be achieved. They kept pressing on and remained focused and determined and today, with 10 points in Group A of the African qualifying series, they have turned their dreams into reality as they have sealed a spot in next year’s mundial in Cameroun. Who knows, Ahmad Ahmad’s (CAF President) countrymen may be unstoppable when the tournament takes centrestage in January 2019.
Low needs to re-strategize
It is no news that German football is on the decline. What was once a scoring machine, playing indomitable attacking football, has been reduced to a scrappy motley side, lacking unity and unable to function well as a team for the past one year. The aftermath of their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign has seen nothing but failure and struggle. A team that used to be a force to be reckoned with is no longer dreaded as we saw at the World Cup in Russia following their shock exit at the group stage. Their struggles did not end at the World Cup as it has continued till date. They have continued their poor run of form with a rough start to their UEFA Nations League campaign. Their embarrassing 3-0 loss to the Netherlands on Saturday and their 2-1 loss to France on Tuesday night means they have now lost six matches in a calendar year for the first time in their history. It has been a nightmare 2018 for them. Things are certainly not going fine with the Die Mannschaft.
One thing is certain- football is a tradition in Germany. They cannot continue like this. Therefore, Low must find a way to fix this problem. He has got to shake up his squad well and stop being loyal to certain players with whom he had enjoyed success in 2014 like his persistence with Manuel Neuer instead of trusting Marc-Andre ter Stegen. He must re-work on his tactics if he must restore the pride of the team. As the manager, he is the one that can address these issues. German fans are beginning to lose patience as the glory days are fast disappearing. They want to experience success and unless he is able to do that, he will have to make way for a successor in the nearest future.
Ighalo not a finished product yet
The international break also saw an impressive display from the Super Eagles of Nigeria in their two-legged encounter with the Mediterranean Knights of Libya. The encounter which saw Gernat Rohr’s side defeat the North Africans home and away in the 2019 AFCON qualification series was spearheaded by Jude Odion Ighalo.
The Changchhun Yatai’s striker was ruthless, scoring a total of five goals (a hat-trick in Nigeria and a brace in Libya) as the West African side claimed maximum points from Omar Al-Maryami’s side to move top of Group E following South Africa’s draw with Seychelles.
Prior to this encounter, he had been written off by many sections of the fans and there were calls for him to be dropped by the coach of the team because it was believed that he had nothing to offer the team following his below-par performances for the Super Eagles since his move to China. However, his five goals against Libya is a bold statement that he should not be written off just yet. He is beginning to show that he can be the super striker the nation needs if given the support and motivation.