Nigeria vs Mali: Four Key Reasons Why the Super Eagles Lost Against Les Aigles

Nigeria vs Mali: Four Key Reasons Why the Super Eagles Lost Against Les Aigles

Ero Samson
updated at March 27, 2024 at 9:59 AM
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Super Eagles
South Africa
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Yves Bissouma logo
Y. Bissouma
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Cyriel Dessers logo
C. Dessers
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Kelechi Iheanacho logo
K. Iheanacho
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Moses Simon logo
M. Simon
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Chidozie Awaziem logo
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Lassana Coulibaly logo
L. Colulibaly
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E. B. Toure
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K. Doumbia
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  • The Super Eagles of Nigeria fell to a defeat against West African nation, Mali
  • The victory was Les Aigles' first win against the Super Eagles in over 48 years
  • Sports Brief highlights reasons behind the defeat suffered by coach Finidi's side

The Super Eagles of Nigeria fell to their first defeat since the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in their clash against Mali.

The fixture, held at the Stade de Marrakech in Morocco, witnessed the previously high-flying Super Eagles, led by coach Finidi George, falter against their West African rivals.

Goals from Atalanta forward, El Bilal Toure and Brest star, Kamory Doumbia, were enough to hand Eric Chelle's side their first win over the Super Eagles in over 48 years.

Nigeria, Defeat, Mali, Super Eagles, Finidi George, Friendly.
Nigeria's Super Eagles fell to a defeat against West African side, Mali. Image: Visionhaus.
Source: Getty Images

Nigeria's performance was largely lacklustre throughout the game, and Sports Brief examines the reasons behind the Super Eagles' defeat to Mali.

Reasons for Nigeria's defeat against Mail

Lack of a recognised centre forward

The Nigerian team surprised many with their lineup, deviating from the formation used in their previous game against Ghana.

Although Coach Finidi stuck with his three-man defensive strategy, he chose not to include a recognised striker in the starting lineup.

Kelechi Iheanacho led the Super Eagles' attack alongside winger Moses Simon, a decision that ultimately proved costly as Nigeria struggled to create meaningful chances.

This absence of a traditional centre forward made it difficult for Nigeria to penetrate the solid defensive structure of the opposing team.

Resurfacing defensive woes

Since the departure of former coach Jose Peseiro, the Super Eagles seem to have regressed to their old defensive vulnerabilities.

Nigeria conceded a lacklustre goal against Ghana, and their defensive performance against Mali was even more chaotic, as the opening goal stemmed from a misplaced pass by defender, Chidozie Awaziem, which allowed El Bilal Toure to score.

The second goal Nigeria conceded was also the result of defensive errors, as the three centre-backs failed to intercept a pass that led to striker Doumbia's goal.

According to data from Fotmob, the Nigerian team have now conceded five goals in their last three matches, a stark contrast to their impressive defensive display at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast.

The Nigerian team now faces the daunting task of addressing their defensive weaknesses once more.

Lack of clinical attackers

Amid the flurry of defensive challenges the Super Eagles faced, they had their share of attacking opportunities against Mali.

However, the chances created by the AFCON finalists were not capitalised on by their forwards.

Striker, Cyriel Dessers, missed a clear-cut chance when he was played through on goal, and several other attackers also failed to convert their opportunities.

Had any of these chances been converted, the outcome of the game could have been very different.

Mali's midfield superiority

Coach Challe's side executed several key aspects of their game plan effectively against the Super Eagles.

The West African team, featuring a midfield trio of Amadou Haidara, Didia Samassekou, and Lassana Coulibaly, managed to outclass Nigeria's midfield duo of Wilfred Ndidi and Raphael Onyedika.

Even without Yves Bissouma, this combative midfield trio ensured Mali's dominance in the middle of the park. Their performance underscores the upward trend of football in Mali.

Ex-Nigeria midfielder outlines expectations for Finidi

In a recent report, Sports Brief highlighted former Super Eagles midfielder, Friday Ekpo's expectations of Finidi George.

The 54-year-old emphasised the interim coach's pivotal role in building a team capable of achieving sustained success.

Ero Samson photo
Ero Samson
Samson Ero is a sports journalist with a track record of over five years in the Nigerian media industry. He graduated from Nigerian Institute of Journalism (2021-2023).
Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)