Five things we learned from Nigeria's 2-0 win over Chad
It was a game of two halves for Nigeria as they labored to a 2-0 win over Chad in their opening game of qualifying for the 2017 African Nations Cup.
Here are five things we observed from Saturday's clash in Kaduna.
1. Give Rabiu Ibrahim the No. 10 shirt!
As if we didn't already know, Ibrahim's talent and ability have never been in doubt. What he has lacked has been perhaps a settled head. Nomadic journeys through Europe have left Rabiu unable to find any consistency despite his enormous potential. Until now.
With Slovakian side AS Trencin, he appears to have found a home. And it showed when he came on for Michael Babatunde, making an instant impact. Within seconds of coming in, he was involved in the move that led to the opening goal. He created space, dribbled his way out of trouble, nutmegged one man, shimmied past another, left a third on his bum and generally gave the crowd a buzz.
Where other players were looking to play around Babatunde, they always tried to look for Rabiu and he made himself available as an outlet all over the park. One end this minute, the other end the next.
It was only about 30 minutes, but Ibrahim did enough to show that the Super Eagles' number 10 shirt belongs on only one back. His.
2. Is the defence settled?
One of the areas that cost Nigeria qualification for 2015 was defence. Lacking a specialist right-back, riddled with inconsistencies at centre-back and uncertain of his best left-back, Stephen Keshi was left to try new partnerships almost every game, with the same shaky performances regardless.
Not this time: Of Stephen Keshi's "regular" defensive quartet, young Kenneth Omeruo was the only one who started. Two of the other three were debutants while the other had only played 12 minutes of international football prior to this game.
But to see them play, one would be forgiven for thinking they were born with the green shirt already on. William Troost-Ekong excelled at centre-back. Leon Balogun bombed up and down the right touchline without giving anything away, and at left back, Kingsley Madu's composure was exemplary.
It's safe to say that anyone who did not start this game is now an outsider looking in. Oh, and Vincent Enyeama again showed why he is a demi-god. His point-blank save from inside the six-yard box defies adjectives. On the day he moved in front to become the record appearance-holder for Nigeria at 101 caps. Here's to another 101!
3. The Super Eagles need a home
It is very trying to see the Super Eagles move from stadium to dilapidated stadium. A national team needs a home, and the football federation will have to take that decision sooner rather than later.
The Ahmadu Bello Stadium is in no way fit to host an international game. Crowd encroachment aside, the divot-ridden pitch was a disgrace, egress points were barely policeable and facilities appeared to be totally run down. It's time to get the Abuja Stadium fixed, or choose one city and stay there.
4. Salami makes locals proud
Gbolahan Salami was the only one of the nine local players invited who earned a starting spot. And how he proved it was a deserving selection. Salami ran himself aground, chased lost causes, defended from the front and helped himself to a cracking goal in the 2-0 win.
He scored almost every other game and on the basis of Saturday's performance, we should see more players from the local league getting recognition.
5. Set pieces, anyone?
It's embarrassing. Really. Watching a group of international players struggle over set pieces in a way that even a Sunday League side would not.
What exactly does the Nigerian national team do at all those "closed sessions" if they can't work on the basics?
Colin Udoh is the editor of KickOffNigeria.com and African football correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ColinUdoh.