Former Super Eagles captain Austin Okocha has blamed the lack of creativity in the team’s midfield for their 2-0 loss to Croatia on Saturday in their opening Group D match at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
An own goal from Oghenekaro Etebo and a converted penalty from Luka Modric gave the Europeans the three points, which shot them to the top of Group D.
Okocha, who represented Nigeria at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups, said the failure of the team to deal with set-pieces cost them the match.
Okocha also blamed Rohr for deploying Mikel in the creative role.
“The Eagles didn’t have a creative player today (Saturday),” Okocha, who featured on Supersport as a guest analyst, said after the game.
“Mikel has been a good servant to the national team. His best position is playing in front of the defence. We saw what he did playing for Chelsea where he had a glorious career. The most creative player in that team is Alex Iwobi but he was played on the flanks.
“He (Iwobi) can play on the flanks at Arsenal because they had better players in that role like Mesut Ozil. The reason why we lost was because we played our best players out of their positions. Playing Mikel in that position didn’t help Moses and Iwobi on the flanks.”
He said Gernot Rohr failed to get the best out of Iwobi and Moses because the Croatians dominated the midfield.
He said, “It was a decent first half but maturity was the edge the Croatian team had over the Nigerian team. The Eagles got done by the movements of the Croatian team in their box and the Eagles midfielders were not doing their best both in defending and in attack.
“The Eagles didn’t get the best out of Iwobi and Moses because the manager was trying to accommodate Mikel in the team. The manager didn’t earn his money today. We were not a threat in the first half and I was expecting him to play three at the back, five players in the midfield and two strikers to the team a chance to get back into the game.
“It is sad because I know we can do better than this. Of course there is still hope but we have to do it the hard way now. These (Croatians) are world class players who know how to win by exploiting little details, which they did.”