World Cup: Tough Breaks for African Teams; Super Eagles Play Timid

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Young goalie Uzo tried his best

It was a rough World Cup opening week for Africa in Russia with all three teams that played losing their games and slipping in the race to make it to the next round.

Egypt and Morocco both lost 1-0 while Nigeria was beaten 2-0 by Croatia.

Morocco dominated Iran and had several scoring opportunities, many of which were thwarted by great Iranian goal keeping.

Morocco showed much flair and it's too bad they lost an opportunity to pick up some big points. They conceded a nasty own goal when substitute defender Aziz Bouhaddouz, trying to clear a free kick cross, rammed the ball on a diving header into his own net.

Egypt also had many scoring opportunities. Their goalkeeper kept them in the game with many brilliant chances and Uruguay's forward Luis Suarez was terrible, failing to convert on many opportunities. But Uruguay needed just one header by Jose Gimenez from a corner kick to snatch the game in the 89th minute. Egypt was without star Mohamed Salah who is nursing a shoulder injury.

Nigeria's loss was perhaps the worst and reflected the team's inexperience. Both goals were basically due to nerves. The first was from a header after a Croatian corner kick. The ball was not even headed towards goal but bounced off the feet of a Nigerian defender, Oghenekaro Etebo, and behind him past 19-year old goalie Francis Uzoho into the goal. Wrong spot; wrong time.

The second goal was a penalty that was awarded to Croatia after an awful foul by a Nigerian defender William Troost-Ekong. Again it was another corner. This time in the second half.

Troost-Ekong practically wrapped both his arms around a Croatian player and dragged him to the ground. He gave the referee no choice. Pushing off forwards by defenders is common in soccer; most good players try to be subtle about such fouls. Troost-Ekong let down his teammates and his country. They could have come back from one goal but definitely not from two.

Ironically Nigeria is a far better team than Croatia. The players are more skilled and much faster. The coaching was subpar. The Super Eagles could have created several scoring opportunities in the first half and gone into halftime two goals up instead of a goal down.

Whenever Croatia pushed up their left full back and middle was widely exposed. A good through ball, well timed, could have left a Nigerian forward one-on-one with the goalie.

But in truth the Nigerians looked like they did not believe that could win. That doesn't work for any sports. The players have to believe they came on the field for one purpose only --victory.

Hopefully the Nigerians will loosen up, have some fun, and use their superior skills in their next two games.

Their skills and speed gives the Super Eagles an opportunity to recover against Iceland and Argentina. The former is in a good spot; Lionel Messi missed a good spot and Iceland held Argentina 1-1.

If Nigeria plays tentatively in their next games then it's good bye Moscow and welcome Abuja.

They will go home early.

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