Cyriel Dessers marked his return to the Super Eagles with a goal to draw the team level against Mexico but it was not enough as Jose Peseiro lost his first game in charge.
Nigeria and Mexico battled it out in a friendly game which served as preparation for Nigeria's 2023 African Cup of Nations qualifiers and Mexico's World Cup sojourn. The AT&T stadium in Texas, United States of America was packed with local fans and fans of both teams in a thoroughly enjoyable atmosphere.
El Tri went ahead in the 12th minute when Santiago Jimenez beat his markers to latch on to a tee-up header from Jesus Gallardo to put the ball past Francis Uzoho, who joined the team late after initially dropping out of the team. The Cyprus-based goalkeeper did well to save Jimenez's first effort but the ball rebounded off the Mexico striker unfortunately to end up in the back of the net.
Nigeria set up themselves in a 3-5-2 formation for counter attacks and were comfortable to sit back and attack Mexico. It eventually paid off when Calvin Bassey found the returning Dessers with a superb cross for the UEFA European Conference League top scorer to find the back of the net with a header.
An own goal from captain William Troost-Ekong two minutes after Dessers' struck sealed the win for El Tri. The takeaway from the match, however, is that there was visible improvement from the team that played against Ghana in March and lost the World Cup ticket.
Peseiro praises NPFL players
Eight Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) players were invited to the game and Peseiro used four of them in the game. He was full of praise for the way they played after the match.
The manager fielded Enyimba forward Victor Mbaoma, Katsina United midfielder Sani Faisal and Rivers United duo Rafiu Ishaq and Chiamaka Madu as substitutes in the second half.
Former Super Eagles press officer Colin Udoh tweeted the manager's thoughts after the match, which showed general happiness at the team's performance and especially of the locally based players.
Peseiro said (via Colin Udoh): “They (NPFL players) came and they played very well. We can't hide it, they had 2 players in front controlling our 5 at the back.”
Nigerian Football Federation NFF president Amaju Pinnick, who was at the game to witness his new manager's first outing, said he was satisfied with what he saw. “I am happy with what we put up out there,” he said.
“It was the first time after the disappointment of the World Cup playoff and you can say this is a makeshift team, while Mexico had their full-strength squad out there. I like what I saw today and I have confidence that we have appointed the right coach that can restore the glory of the Super Eagles and make them start winning once more.”
The Portuguese manager will have a chance to leave the US with a good result on June 3 when the Super Eagles take on Ecuador at the Red Bull Arena, New Jersey.
And judging from his thoughts on the local players, Nigerians will get to see more of them in the team.
This article was most recently revised and updated 4 weeks ago