Joe Aribo is the new Jay Jay Okocha and other lessons from Super Eagles 2-2 draw with Ukraine


Nigeria went two goals ahead then conceded two late strikes in the space of five second half minutes to open the door for Ukraine to drag the encounter into an interesting stalemate.

Soccernet.ng looks at the five biggest talking points that can be deduced from the match.

Semi Ajayi is the real juice

How in the Seven Kingdoms did this beauty of a defender miss the squad that went to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations? This lad got dropped for Leon Balogun?

A sort of ice wall, Ajayi rarely put a foot wrong, even teasing the Ukrainian attackers with his natural ability to hold on to the ball, confidence to pass it with ease and defensive instincts to snuff out danger.

No man is perfect but it would not be out of place if the West Brom defender had a ten out of ten ratings for his endeavour but for the two goals that got past his defence line.

Immaculate on the ground, commanding in the air, Semi Ajayi would have been harvesting applause at the end of the game but for that five mad moments in the second half when the whole team switched off.

Kenneth Omeruo should be looking over his shoulders because any glitch and his jersey would be ripped off him by Ajayi, and no one would complain.

Super Eagles flanks is fire

Samuel Kalu is back and Samuel Chukwueze is steroids on wheels. Nigeria’s first two goals came from the left flank where Kalu was a constant menace.

Close ball control, pace on turbo and a sack load of tricks at dazzling levels, Kalu was the symbol of everything good about the Eagles going forward. He created the opening that led to Iwobi’s assist for the first goal and was also the player felled for the penalty that Osimhen converted. He may just be 26 but Ahmed Musa’s time has a starter in the national team may be coming to an end.

Uzoho is up for the goalkeeping challenge

Nigeria needs a first choice goalkeeper and the Super Eagles number one jersey is up for grabs. After neither of Akpeyi, Ezenwa nor Uzoho laid valid claim to the spot in the past few years, Gernot Rohr was forced to invite a little known, Germany-based talent in Maduka Okoye.

But on the evidence of the Ukraine tie, Uzoho is clearly up for the fight. Two point blank saves in either half, an improved composure in the box and a better handling of the ball shows Francis Uzoho has come in leaps and bounds since is below par performance at the World Cup.

If Okoye thinks he’s going to walk straight into the team, then he probably has not been paying attention to that guy Uzoho.

Joe Aribo is the new Austin Jay Jay Okocha

Okay, may be that’s taking it a tad too far but the Glasgow Rangers midfielder was worthy of the number ten jersey he wore on the night. Not since the former Bolton Wanderers’ skipper and magician have we seen any Nigerian player close to being an artist on the pitch. Yet, on his full debut as an Eagle, Aribo was a delight to watch, the ball seemingly glued to his feet and the Yellow Men completely lost as to how to rob him of the ball.

Heck, the boy can dribble and has incredible energy to push play from box to box.

Add to that the positiinal intelligence and the in-box awareness to grab a goal on his debut. This lad is going places and Super Eagles fans should be delighted that he is embarking on that journey wearing the green and white proudly.

Iwobi may be Jay Jay’s nephew but Okocha’s heir is here. All hail Ayodele Aribo!

Attack great; defence work in progress

For 75 minutes, the Super Eagles were absolutely fantastic going forward and decent at the back.

For anyone who still retain doubts on the poaching abilities of Victor Osimhen, the Lille forward has answered in a way all great goalscorers do: scoring on his full debut for the senior side.

He showed genuine hunger, a desire that is as passionate as it is obsessive and an ability on the ball that is beyond is young age. He was a handful for Ukraine’s defenders all night and but for the wastefulness of Chukwueze, the former Sporting Charleroi striker would have punished the home side more than Hus solitary strike.

Iwobi did well as did Etebo who appeared to miss the calming influence of Wilfred Ndidi, his regular partner in chief. There was a far more pleasing understanding and chemistry between the forward players when on the attack, so much so that the Super Eagles could and should have scored more than two.

But the attack would ultimately rue those missed chances and the defense would suffer from a lapse in concentration, belatedly allowing Andriy Shevchenko’s men a chance to draw level when a loss appeared a forgone conclusion.

A pleasant evening and an enjoyable match of football however ends in stalemate as Nigeria and Ukraine battle out a 2-2 draw at the Dnipro Arena, Ukraine.