The main source of concern for the Nigeria supporters have been the position of the two midfield combination set to complete the set with John Obi Mikel who is almost certain to start on Saturday.
The previous partnership of Onazi and Joel Obi against England produced a poor result as the super eagles play the entire duration of the first interval in second fiddle. Their abysmal partnership was filled with errors and lose ball which resulted in a Harry Kane goal. However the arrival of Etebo in the second interval proved to be crucial as the Stoke city ‘signing was able to take control of the centre of the park as England dropped men behind the ball. The pairing of Ogu and Ndidi failed as lack of communication between the duos created the problems for the players up the pitch.
John Mikel Obi spent huge chunk of the game dropping deep to receive ball and that led to his substitution in the 80th minute. Judging from Nigeria’s last two outings Gernot will certainly not go for a static duo judging from the last two friendlies as it does not create room to link up play with the players up the pitch. While Nigerian sports media have been suggesting that Rohr goes ahead in pairing Ndidi and Etebo in the middle of the park against Croatia as both players have the energy required in those position, the need to put an experienced player in that position remains a must. The pairing of Onazi and Ndidi in the positions could force Nigeria into a defensive approach while the pairing of Etebo and Ndidi is too risky as both players lacks the experience to take on the master-class of Modric and Rakitic.
The best option remains the partnership of Onazi and Etebo as it allows a blend of experience and youth without altering the attacking nature of the super eagles. The Stoke city’ signing have proved to be versatile player dating back to his days in the Olympic tournament in Brazil. The 22 year old central midfielder provides box-to-box ability for Mikel when Nigeria attacks while a solid defensive partnership with the experienced defensive midfielder Ogenyi Onazi which neither Ndidi, Ogu nor Joel Obi possess. He can also be the perfect youth with the energy to keep Ivan Rakitic as Mikel and Modric is expected to battle for control of the midfield. Etebo no doubt still a big role to play in the team. The combination of Mikel, Etebo and Onazi remains the best option as it cuts through experience and youth.