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Tijani Babangida has tipped England-based attacking duo Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi to turn around the fortunes of the Super Eagles.
Nigeria got off to a winning start on the road to Russia with a 2-1 win over Zambia’s Chipolopolo in their opening 2018 World Cup Group B qualifier at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola, Zambia, on Sunday.
Arsenal’s rising star Iwobi opened the scoring for the Eagles in the 33rd minute while Manchester City star Iheanacho continued his red-hot scoring form for his country with a clever finish in the 43rd minute to put the three-time African champions 2-0 up.
Portsmouth flop Collins Mbesuma captalised on a defensive blunder by Nigeria defender Kenneth Omeruo to fire past goalkeeper Carl Ikeme in the 71st minute.
Former Nigeria winger Babangida, who heaped praise on the Eagles for beating Chipolopolo for the first in their backyard since 1973, said the Eagles manager Gernot Rohr deserved the plaudits for starting Iheanacho and Iwobi in the encounter.
According to the former Ajax attacker, who represented Nigeria at the France ’98 World Cup, the two young Premier League forwards could spark the Eagles’ revival if they are allowed to grow together in the formation for Sunday’s game.
“We have been struggling since we failed to qualify for both the 2015 and 2017 Africa Cup of Nations,” the Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games gold medallist told our correspondent on the telephone on Sunday.
“For a very long time we have not seen the winning mentality Iheanacho and Iwobi have brought to the national team.
“They can fire us to glory if we continue with them in our attack – and I hope the coach will stick by them.
“They are good finishers and we should encourage them to play together in our attack.”
The former Holland-based player backed Rohr’s decision to drop Leicester City winger Ahmed Musa to the bench, saying the German coach picked the right players for the clash.
Babangida said, “Musa was not dropped because he’s a bad player. The player who was selected by the coach played well. The coach could have dropped him for tactical reasons.”
The former Roda star launched a stinging attack on the Eagles defenders, accusing them of being “too slow”.
“Our defenders were too slow and the coach should work on our defence. He should also work on other areas,” he said.
The retired attacker added, “We should commend the coach for doing a great job. It’s been a long time since the Eagles played the kind of football they played against Zambia.”
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