Ed Dove and Malek Shafei review the international break during a special episode of AFHQ
The international break is on the agenda in African Football HQ this week, as the continent’s teams return to action for the first time in 11 months.
Ed Dove is struggling to pick out the positives from a muddled two matches for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, as they were defeated by Algeria and then were held 1-1 by Tunisia.
Admittedly, the West African giants have had to fare without several key players following injuries to the likes of Wilfred Ndidi and Joe Aribo, as well as the absence of Victor Osimhen due to coronavirus reasons.
However, these were two disjointed and uninspiring displays, with a clear absence of authority and control in the midfield.
Similarly, has Gernot Rohr missed an opportunity to assess some of the broader options in the squad? It’s hard to argue that he shouldn’t have given more playing time to Chidera Ejuke and Cyriel Dessers, both of whom had been waiting since March to make their debuts for the Eagles.
Malek Shafei is a little more complimentary about Nigeria’s international break; he was impressed with Alex Iwobi’s contribution against Tunisia, while the end of Kelechi Iheanacho’s goal drought for the national side is also cause for optimism.
For Malek, the big winners of the international break were Algeria, who defeated Nigeria and then held Mexico despite being reduced to 10 men from early in the second half following the dismissal of Adlene Guedioura.
Les Fennecs took the lead in the second half through Riyad Mahrez, and while they weren’t able to hold on—eventually drawing 2-2—the international break has served a reminder as to why they will be considered among the favourites to retain the Africa Cup of Nations title in 2022.
Also on the agenda, we look at Thomas Partey’s glittering performance for Ghana against Qatar, review Gervinho’s return to action with the Ivory Coast following three years away from the Elephants fold, and assess some of those players making their debuts this weekend.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be the case for Morocco-hopeful Munir El-Haddadi, who was denied—at the death—the chance to represent the Atlas Lions, while Adama Traore and Bukayo Saka both turned their backs on Africa and made their bows for Spain and England respectively.