In the match for 3rd place, record champion Nigeria faced off against Tunisia. Based on prior performances at the tournament, Nigeria seemed the clear favourite. “The Flying Eagles” had no problem leaving the ball to Tunisia as they were deadly in their moments.
Both teams started in a 4-3-3 with an open mindset, something that soon looked deadly for Tunisia. The opening goal fell after only 9 minutes, in the combination Nigeria proved too quick, something that stood out throughout the match. We did not get an exciting match, Nigeria lived up to its favourite role and secured 3rd place with a clear 0-4 final score.
- A1 – Very good, could play higher
- A2 – Strong potential to play higher
- B1 – Good, strong player at level
- B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
- C – Average for the level, rewatch
- D – Below average in this match
• Nationality: Nigerian
• Age: 18
• Date of birth: 19/06/2004
• Current club: KAA Gent
• Career: HB Abuja (Y)
• Position: Striker
• Preferred foot: Right
Abdullahi played this match as the only striker. He was supported by 2 wingers. In terms of type, Abdullahi is not a real target man, he is a mobile striker who likes to get into the ball. Once in possession, he often looks for the combination, but he can also force the action himself.
On the early 1-0, you can see why he is so important in this playing system. He sinks out well and runs free. Right-back Barneyi makes the running move and looks for the combination with Abdullahi, he plays the perfect pass in one go. This sets up a tempo acceleration that Tunisia cannot keep up with, resulting in the 0-1.
Even when Abdullahi has to serve as a target man or track a ball against his regular style of play, it is usually not a problem. His athletic build allows him to keep track of a ball. Besides, he is also quite tall compared to other players.
Positionally, something can also be said about the Nigerian striker. He puts in a lot of attacking runs, often popping up in the box. That with his coolness in front of the goal is a fine trait for a striker.
In terms of defensive acumen, steps need to be taken. He shows little defensive surrender and often does not function in the role of “the striker is the first defender”. In defensive duels, he is too nonchalant, although, on the attacking front, he shows he can be dominant in duels.
Short passing also needs to improve, he sees the space and the possible pass, but it doesn’t come out. His guts to dare to play that pass is a positive then.
Rating – B1
The Belgian league has already proven to be an excellent development competition, especially for Nigerian strikers. That is also why I think Abdullahi is in place. He is a regular at the u18s and already got some selections for the first team. With the necessary development and perseverance, he seems potentially a good option for KAA Gent.
• Nationality: Nigerian
• Age: 19
• Date of birth: 09/11/2003
• Current club: MFM FC
• Career: MFM FC (Y)
• Position: Left-Back
• Secondary Position: Centre-Back
• Preferred foot: Left
One of the 2 Nigerians included in the team in the tournament is Solomon Agbalaka. Agbalaka is a left-footed defender who can often be found on the left side. He is a quick left-back, who can also fill the role of the central defender just fine. His vision is a strong trait, which ensures that he is always approachable.
Based on his profile, a role as a central defender seems the best option going forward. He lacks the agility and athleticism to play as an overlapping or modern back. Then again, his positioning makes up for a lot in that respect. He shows the necessary boldness to run into spaces.
Even though he was retrained from central defender to left back, his original position still seems the best. He possesses the necessary size, and his physique also makes him very solid in duels. Defensively, he is dominant and incisive. With a strong defensive profile and positioning, he is often a key pawn in defensive phases.
The combination of his defensive strength, speed and physical build makes him a very potentially strong central defender. In addition, his strong left foot only makes his profile more interesting.
Rating – A2
Agbalaka seems ready for a step up, as he proved throughout the tournament. It will be interesting in the coming seasons to see what his permanent position will be. His unique profile will not remain unknown, and so it seems a certainty that he will be on the list of many clubs. A move to a league where he can develop himself seems perfect, whether in his continent or not.