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Gernot Rohr is confident that the Super Eagles will qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but must not underestimate any of their opponents in the qualifying campaign.
Super Eagles have been drawn in Group C against Cape Verde, Central African Republic, and Liberia in the second round of the African qualifiers.
With just a few months away from the start of the second round the African qualifiers for Qatar 2022, Rohr said the Super Eagles must be wary of all their opponents.
“We have three opponents in the group and have to respect all of them. Liberia is a team that can’t be underestimated as we saw when we beat them in a friendly,” Rohr told the Fifa website.
“As for Cape Verde, they have players of Portuguese and Brazilian origin, and they can beat any team. The central African Republic are an unknown quantity for us, which makes it more difficult. I think the group is tough, but we believe in our capabilities.
“Given that we qualified from the group of death for Russia 2018, we’re confident we can make it this time as well,” he said.
Rohr also hopes that his team will be among the winners of the 10 groups that will do battle for the final five slots as African representatives in Qatar.
Kevin Akpoguma has insisted that he is happy with his decision to switch allegiance to Nigeria and he’s desperate to meet his new national teammates.
Akpoguma who was born in Germany to a Nigerian father and German mother played and captained the Europeans at the age-grade levels, before pledging allegiance to Nigeria at the senior level.
The Hoffenheim defender has completed his paperwork and eligible to play for Nigeria, but he was omitted from the squad that will take on Algeria and Tunisia next month in Austria.
The 25-year-old told reporters that he to make his debut for the Gernot Rohr led Super Eagles.
“It makes me incredibly proud, It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I am now at an age where I have gained European experience and feel ready to play for my homeland,”
“I’m really looking forward to getting to know the team.” He said on representing Nigeria.
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Don’t believe their lies.
Aa is the case with all sports, a football game is a dynamic ecosystem. A combination of teamwide philosophies and personnel selection ensures that every match produces a relatively unique experience, with triumph typically granted to the side that most successfully imposes their own game on the opposition — the inherent and unavoidable randomness of sports notwithstanding.
Broadly, then, to explain this dynamic, this writer has always attempted to make a distinction between strategies and tactics, with the former explaining what you’re trying to achieve, and the latter answering the question of how.
To wit, Liverpool’s high line, the subject of many a pundit’s nonplussedness whenever an opposing team manages to wrangle a one-on-one situation with the Reds’ keeper, or, as was the case against Arsenal last night, two one-on-one situations with the Reds’ keeper, albeit one of them was explicitly offside.
Now, on the strategic level, what Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool are broadly trying to do in a football game — not taking into account strategic alterations as a result of game state — is to win the ball back high up the pitch in order to create clear chances against an opponent caught off guard, but without tremendous leakage at the back end of the pitch. This is not a novel concept, and a plethora of teams have taken the pitch with similar ideas in the past century.
On the macro level, the applied tactics are not groundbreaking either, and we would have to get down to specific patterns of play, far beyond the scope of this article and, in all likelihood, the grasp of this writer, to understand exactly why they have been so successful in this specific side. Nonetheless, the bigger picture of how the team’s tactics function appear to have passed many pundits by, and so we can make an attempt at clarifying.
If we make the assumption that the opposition begins with established possession — as opposed to having just won it from the Reds, in which case Klopp’s extremely aggressive gegenpress comes into play — the first thing this Liverpool side sets out to do, is establish a primary press. This largely revolves around the notorious front three — often assisted by one midfielder — closing down ball carriers and passing lanes at specific angles in order to shepherd the ball, either into specific areas of the pitch, or away from a primary playmaker. No team performed more pressures in the final third last season than Liverpool, a full eight percent more than Manchester City, another renowned pressing side that we will come back to later in this piece.
Should the opposition find their way through the primary press, some control has been lost, and the balance begins to shift towards damage limitation, through the secondary press. Here, the fullbacks and/or midfielders, depending on the location of the ball, will do their best to disturb the ball carrier, ideally forcing play to go backwards, but at the very least, making sure that a clean look at a through ball is avoided.
In the event that a pass is made, the hotly debated high line comes into play. Already positioned high up the pitch to constrict space and passing options in the centre of the park, the defensive unit will move as one and push up in an attempt to disrupt the timing of the pass with its corresponding run, but without selling out so hard that they cannot make an attempt to recover.
The Reds’ central defenders have a few things in common — an impressive passing range among them — but for the purposes of this defensive system, their main shared attribute is their recovery speed. Long, rangy strides allow Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and the rest to catch up with strikers who have gotten a head start should a pass find its way in their direction, and it is an absolute necessity for the defensive structure to work the way it does.
Finally, the Reds have an aggressive goalkeeper. Despite Liverpool’s dominant possession stats, no team had their goalkeeper make more defensive actions outside the area last season than the Reds, and only Manchester City’s Ederson averaged those actions further from their own goal line. Alisson Becker has arguably been the world’s best goalkeeper for the past few seasons, but more than that, he is a perfect fit for the kind of goalkeeping is required in Klopp’s side.
Crucially, when evaluating a defensive structure, rather than taking shots at single pieces of it, it makes more sense to look at its effectiveness in its entirety. The Reds have, in the past two seasons, conceded fewer goals than any other side. Their post-shot expected goals are lower than any other side. As a percentage of overall tackles, no team makes fewer in their defensive third. And, crucially, despite the impression that when they give up chances those chances tend to be big ones, they kept the average expected goals value of shots against to .092 per effort, just under the league average. For comparison, the other really good high pressing side gave up shots that averaged .12 expected goals per effort.
This has been an incredibly long-winded, probably pretentious, and possibly completely unnecessary exploration of the fact that even if pundits and studio analysis point out singular moments where a part of it is breached, either through a moment of opposition brilliance, individual failure, or managerial oversight, the system, as a whole, works exceptionally well and exactly according to design. Eliminating any single part would compromise the entire structure.
Sometimes, the best keeper on the planer has to make a great save. Most of the time, though, he doesn’t. And that’s pretty good.
Liverpool’s midfield star chose to make his diagnosis public and hopes to return following the international break.
In the lead in to Monday’s Premier League match at Anfield against Arsenal, fans knew that new midfield signing Thiago Alcantara and star goalkeeper Alisson Becker might miss the game due to injury, though at the time any specifics were not revealed.
In the end, Alisson was able to play and Thaigo was not. Today we know why as the player has chosen to make public a positive test for COVID-19. He will spend at least the next two weeks in isolation, potentially returning to action after the international break.
“It is the choice of each individual whether they reveal publicly the outcome of a COVID-19 test,” read a statement from club doctor Jim Moxon. “Thiago is [currently] okay. He will be self-isolating now as per the guidelines and hopefully he’ll be back with us soon.”
Following a positive test late last week, Thiago went into isolation and a second test was performed. When that test also came back positive, it was certain he would miss Arsenal as well as the mid-week cup tie and game against Aston Villa on the weekend.
A best case scenario, with Thiago either asymptomatic or suffering a mild case of the virus, would allow him to return for the derby against Everton on October 17th.
It should probably come as no surprise Liverpool’s newest signing is one they’ve had their eye on for some time.
Over the past two seasons, Diogo Jota made 85 appearances for Wolverhampton Wanderers, scoring 26 goals and 13 assists.
The season before, the 23-year-old Portuguese attacker’s first in England with Wolves in the Championship, he made 46 appearances in all competitions while scoring 18 goals and adding six assists.
Now he’s Liverpool’s player, and in his first league appearance for the Reds he showed just why the club went out and signed him—not that manager Jürgen Klopp is surprised.
“I’m really pleased for him,” Klopp said following Monday’s victory over Arsenal. “It’s so difficult to improve a team like ours, to bring in players who fit in exactly, but I know for a while about Diogo Jota.
“He’s been on my list for two or three years already—but it needs to be the right moment. So I’m really happy that he’s here now and it’s been a great start.”
Liverpool have shown in recent seasons they don’t simply go out and buy any player, they track them. For a long, long time. Whether it’s the club’s first choice at the position or second or third, they will have been following any new signing for years.
It’s no surprise, then, that for Jota it’s no different—that they’ve been watching him since he arrived in England at 20 years of age and keeping a very close watch over the past two seasons in particular.
He’s been signed—and for a quite significant fee—because the club believe in his talent and fit. Based on their track record, the question was never if he’d make an impact, only when.
Liverpool’s new attacking signing played a major role off the bench against Arsenal.
For the second game in a row in the league, Liverpool introduced one of their big summer signings in the second half. And for the second game in a row in the league, that big new summer signing made a big difference.
A week after Thiago Alcantara came on and bossed Chelsea, Diogo Jota came on and scored the goal that put the game to bed, scoring Liverpool’s third against an outclassed Arsenal side never as close as the scoreline.
“It means a lot,” Jota told the club’s official website following the victory. “When you arrive at a team that are world champions, you always try to adapt as quickly as possible. The way they received me is exceptional.
“I think we can build up from here and do great things in the future. Obviously I could have done better, I had a couple of chances before. But I’m happy with this—getting my first goal in my first [Premier League] game.”
Jota was on the pitch for just about ten minutes and could have scored three goals as he slipped mostly seamlessly—a miscue with Mohamed Salah in the box aside, at least—into the role usually played by Sadio Mané.
He might think he could have done better, but for most the takeaway will be just how good he looked. For most, the takeaway will be that Liverpool for the first time have a legitimate option to rotate with Mané and Salah.
“When we are on the bench we are watching the game closely,” Jota added. “We know we could come on at any moment and we could have a chance to decide the game. That’s what I try to do—always be focused.”