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Tactics: U.S. defend deep

Tactics Board Jul 1, 2014
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CAF's best push UEFA teams to the limit

Five Aside Jun 30, 2014
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Matchday 14: Messi, Argentina in round of 16

Five Aside Jun 25, 2014
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 Posted by Colin Udoh
Jul 1, 2014

Assessment: Nigeria's bright future

Although Nigeria lost 2-0 to France, ESPN FC's Claudio Reyna gives Nigeria credit as they had France on their heels for the majority of the game.

One sentence, World Cup recap

It may have ended in disappointment, but this was a World Cup campaign that restored hope, belief and confidence in a bright future for the Super Eagles.

All team assessments

Group Stage: Australia | Bosnia-Herzegovina | Cameroon | Croatia | Ecuador | England | Ghana | Honduras | Italy | Iran
Ivory Coast Japan | Portugal | Russia | South Korea | Spain
Round of 16: Algeria | Chile | Greece | Mexico
Nigeria | Switzerland | Uruguay | United States
Quarterfinals: Colombia | France | Belgium | Costa Rica
Semifinals: Brazil | Netherlands
Finalists: Argentina
Winners: Germany

Star Man

Undoubtedly Vincent Enyeama. Unlike four years ago, he did not have to come up with a plethora of interventions to save Nigeria's bacon. But on the not-so-few decisive occasions when he had to, he came up big, as usual.

Against Bosnia-Herzegovina -- with Nigeria frantically defending a 1-0 lead -- Edin Dzeko found the tightest of spaces to turn and fire from inside the box. Enyeama somehow got a hand to the ball to send it onto the woodwork and out.

That proved a pivotal moment, as the draw would have all but seen Bosnia-Herzegovina advance.

Against France, Paul Pogba's volley from just inside the box was miraculously turned away with an instinctive body-contorting dive. He soiled his copybook somewhat in that final game, with the soft manner of the two goals, but it is doubtful Nigeria would have got that far in the first place if not for him.

Highlights

It's hard to look beyond Ahmed Musa's superb brace against Argentina. Pilloried after the first two games, and perhaps rightly so, for missing chances and mins controlling passes that should have certainly led to goals, Musa responded in the best possible way, against the biggest possible opponent.

His first was a dream curler, as he cut inside of Pablo Zabaleta and fired in from just inside the box. The second was proof of a player confident in his ability and technique, as he kept his composure despite being sandwiched between two defenders, to pick his spot and drill home from close range.

Vincent Enyeama was once again a rock between the posts for Nigeria.

Low Points

There are plenty.

Starting with that opening draw against Iran. It was a dire performance all round, and even if the players would never publicly admit it, they know they deserved the barracking they got in the wake of that game.

- Udoh: Gallant Nigeria return home proud
- Five Aside: CAF push UEFA to the limit

Then there were the two injuries. First, Ogenyi Onazi's pile driver broke Michael Babatunde's hand, cutting his tournament short. Then Onazi himself was the subject of a horrific tackle from Blaise Matuidi which should have earned nothing less than a red card, but didn't.

And of course there was the mini bonus crisis. Fortunately, that was nipped in the bud and proved nothing more than a temporary irritation.

Worst of all was the error from Enyeama, which led to France's opening goal, followed by Joseph Yobo signing off from international football with an own goal. Doesn't get much worse, does it?

Lessons Learned

There can be none more important than what Stephen Keshi has spent his two years in charge trying to preach -- a team is more than a collection of stars. Players should be picked on form, desire and the willingness to make sacrifices in the interest of the collective.

In the course of that, however, a coach should also learn that many players are, and should be treated, like the adults, husbands and fathers that they are. That did not always happen until recently.

Finally, that federation and coach must pull in the same direction. All the time. Both in public and in private. Keshi and this NFF had the potential to be an untouchable combo. But waging too many private battles in the end took it's toll.

Colin Udoh

Colin Udoh is an African football writer, editor of KickOffNigeria.com and became an African football correspondent for ESPN FC after a spell as Nigeria press officer. Follow him on Twitter @ColinUdoh.