Nigeria vs Mali: 4 things we learnt in Super Eagles defeat

Nigeria vs Mali: 4 things we learnt in Super Eagles defeat
Credit: Icon Sport

The Eagles of Mali overcame the Super Eagles of Nigeria 2-0 in an intense international friendly game on Tuesday night which took place at Stade de Marrakech in Morocco.

It was a special night for Malian football because for the first time since 10 December 1978, Mali defeated Nigeria.

A misplaced pass in the 18th minute mark found El Bilal Toure inside the box who composed himself before firing low past Stanley Nwabali in goal before and a Kamory Doumbia's strike four minutes from time sealed the win for Eric Chelle's men.

The Super Eagles had gone unbeaten in nine previous games against Mali, winning six and drawing three before the Eagles snapped their 46-year-old run without a win against the three-time AFCON champions.

Below, we have outlined four lessons drawn from the encounter.

Four things we learnt as Super Eagles lost 2-0 to Mali

Finidi George got his tactics wrong

After beating Ghana last Friday, the Super Eagles interim coach decided to give other players in the squad some game time.

George made four changes to the side that defeated the Black Stars and switched from the 3-4-3 formation that worked well in that victory to a 5-2-3 formation against the Malians.

The trial formation sort of slowed down the team's cohesion as they lacked organization and solidity in the backline which appeared over saturated.

Yes, it was a friendly, and new methods should be tried with players given a chance to play. But tonight against the Eagles, his tactics didn't work out.

Moses Simon's injury will be a big blow for Nantes

In an unfortunate clash with the Malian goalkeeper that ended badly for the Nantes' winger, the stretcher was brought on to take him away from the field of play.

The injury doesn't look good for the 28-year-old who has been a good form for his team in Ligue 1 this season.

Simon has played 22 matches for Nantes, starting 21 times and averaging 82 minutes per game this campaign.

The 2023 AFCON silver medalist has scored three goals and provided five assists for his teammates this season.

A period on the sidelines will surely be a big loss for Antoine Kombouare's side who are battling to survive relegation at the end of the season.

Low energy in Super Eagles play

Nigeria made a slow start to the game, unlike the encounter against Ghana last Friday. It was Mali who were willing to take the initiative.

The low energy from the Super Eagles gave Chelle's men energy to assert themselves in the game and got their goal which came with a bit of luck as Chidozie Awaziem made an erroneous pass into the box which fell kindly for El Bilal.

Nigeria's inability to takes risks before they conceded the opener gave the opponents confidence to penetrate the defense on many occasions in the game.

Super Eagles showcased poor finishing

The Super Eagles dominated the game from start to finish but were unable to create clear-cut chances in the first-half to break the dogged Mali defense.

However, chances came the way of Wilfried Ndidi, Cyriel Dessers, and Kelechi Iheanacho who all failed to direct their efforts past Mamadou Samassa in goal for Chelle's side.

The poor finishing ended up haunting the Super Eagles as Doumbia finally put the nail on the coffin with just four minutes left.

At full-time, Nigeria failed to register a shot on target despite controlling much of the game.

Nigeria's next game

The Super Eagles will be back in action in three months time as they take on South Africa in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on 3 June.

This clash against Bafana Bafana will take place on home soil, the venue is yet to be decided.

Seven days later, they will square off against Benin Republic away from home as they bid to bounce back from their disappointing start to the qualifiers where they sit 3rd in Group C with 2 points after two matches.

This article was most recently revised and updated 3 weeks ago

Joseph is a graduate engineer turned sports writer, he has covered lots of sports stories, match previews and predictions across various leagues on the planet.