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Eagles’ unpredictable approach made the difference, says Elegbeleye

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Eagles’ unpredictable approach made the difference, says Elegbeleye

Gbenga Elegbeleye, former Director-General, National Sports Commission, says the Super Eagles overcame their opponents at the ongoing African Cup of Nations (AFCON) because their opponents find it difficult to read the Super Eagles’ game.

Elegbeleye said in Abuja on Thursday that the tactics had often created confusion for their opponents.

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The former chairman of Rising Stars Football Club of Akure, who was reacting to Nigeria’s 2-1 defeat of South Africa, said the current Super Eagles approached each game depending on their opponent’s antecedent

“One cannot predict what department the Eagles will focus their play on and this often creates confusion for their opponents

“The team I see now; there is something about it. You can’t really say this is where the team is good or this is where it is bad. What I have realised is that they approach a game depending on their opponent

“For instance, against Cameroon, Nigeria played a game worthy of defeating a technical team like Cameroon who were defending champions. The Super Eagles’ attack was key to that victory

“On the other hand, if you look at the quarter-final game against Bafana Bafana, you’ll observe that we didn’t give them room to operate in the midfield

“The duo of Ndidi and Etebo disrupted their play so I can say we won the game by winning the midfield battle,” he said

According to him, no opponent knows the Super Eagles’ specific approach to a game; whether it’s the steel defence, the compact midfield or the fluid attack

The Super Eagles opened scoring against South Africa in the 27th minute when Samuel Chukwueze tapped in an earlier deflected effort off an Alex Iwobi square play

However, South Africa drew level in the 70th minute, as Bongani Zungu headed home a free-kick to make it 1-1

The game seemed to be destined for extra time when, in the 88th minute, Super Eagles defender, William Troost-Ekong, threw himself into a Simon Moses corner kick and guided the ball home to make it 2-1

Elegbeleye said the victory was significant in more ways than just securing an AFCON semi-final ticket

“It was a sweet victory for Nigeria because South Africa likes to pride themselves as custodians of good football

“I personally think we play better than them and the victory justifies the thinking of an average Nigerian that South Africa shouldn’t be defeating us in any game of football

“I congratulate the players,” the former House of Representatives member said

He also expressed optimism that the Super Eagles would return to Nigeria with the coveted continental trophy

He said he was earlier worried about Egypt, because of home crowd and their antics

“But right now, I think nothing can stop Nigeria from lifting the trophy. I don’t see any of the remaining teams beating us,” Elegbeleye said

Nigeria will now face either Algeria or Cote d’Ivoire at the semi-finals for a place in the 2019 AFCON final