Nigeria can breathe a bit after AFCON qualifier win, but Victor Osimhen needs help up front

Nigeria's players were a subdued bunch in the wake of their 1-0 win over Guinea Bissau in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying on Monday night, but they could breathe a sigh of relief.

Bissau had recorded a shock win over the Super Eagles in the first fixture last Friday, so the Nigerians needed a win to stay on track, but it was hardly convincing and Victor Osimhen looked like the only in-form player on the pitch.

Redemption came with Moses Simon tucking away a penalty on the half hour mark -- about the same time Mama Balde scored for Guinea Bissau three days earlier.

The win returned the Super Eagles to the top of the table and left them one win away from punching their ticket to the tournament in the Ivory Coast, but it also left questions aplenty about the state of the team under Jose Peseiro.

Five changes, very little difference

The Portuguese coach, obviously displeased by some of the performances on Friday, made five changes to the starting line up, including a brand new central defensive pairing forced by injury to Kevin Akpoguma.

Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho also made way as did Ademola Lookman. In came Kenneth Omeruo and Semi Ajayi at centreback, Frank Onyeka in midfield, Terrell Moffi up front and Moses Simon out wide.

Just like in the first game, the Super Eagles dominated possession as the opposition looked to catch the Nigerians on the counter.

Again, as in the first game, the Nigerians created a plethora of opportunities but it took Bright Osayi-Samuel being positive, driving into the box and getting scythed down to win a penalty that Simon put away with ease.

The good news is that despite the personnel overhaul, the team played the same as they have for the past year. The bad news is that despite the personnel overhaul, the team played the same as they have the past year.

Osimhen's not the only guy on the park...

Wayward shooting was a problem, though bad luck played it's part too with Osimhen hitting the woodwork on one occasion, and squeezing a shot just wide on another. Some fine goalkeeping by Jonas Mendes didn't help.

But wayward shooting and ill fortune aside, what the frontline really needs is team work and better decision-making. Terem Moffi had a chance to play Osimhen in for a simple tap in but chose glory, only to shank his shot.

Samuel Chukwueze, across both legs, had numerous opportunities to find Osimhen or other teammates with a simple square ball or pass in the box and preferred to shoot wild, wide or high.

And Moses Simon's crossing, while it has improved, still needs a ton of work. Osayi-Samuel appears to be the only one who understands that goalscoring is a matter of team work.

Peseiro has his work cut out for him, and he knows it: "I think we did a very good game on Friday and today. But not fantastic the finishing.

"We have good players, we have the best scorer right now in Europe. It didn't come the goals in this moment, but if we keep playing this way, this will come.

"Our team was much better today. We created much better opportunities. In this moment, I am happy, with our organization. We showed our quality football, our passing, with control, with two strikers.

"Our mistake was the finishing, but that can happen. It can come in the next match, it can come in the next qualification match if we keep playing offensive."

He will need to figure out how to get the best of his fearsome frontline, that includes Osimhen, Lookman, Moffi, Iheanacho, Onuachu and Simon.

Peseiro's selection criteria need to change

Ahead of the first leg, when Peseiro was asked why he selected players like Ndidi who had seen very limited club minutes this season, his response was that he wanted the 'best' players.

Starting Ndidi and the likes of Zaidu Sanusi showed the folly of that thinking. And the fact that he dropped so many of those players for the second leg proved it even further. Peseiro must learn to select players based on current form, not reputation.

His wards were compromised by the defensive weaknesses left open by the midfield and left back, with Calvin Bassey constantly being forced to cover for Sanusi in the first game.

That helped create the hole that was exploited by Mama Balde for the Friday goal. The Ajayi and Omeruo combo in central defence showed what an in-form team of players can do.

Tactically however, the coach seems to be finding his feet. He is flexible enough to switch up his team formation, and responding to in-game change with new personnel as he showed in making quick decisions at half time of both games.

This should serve him well for the future, especially with his attacking bent. On a good day his team can score 10, like they did against Sao Tome e Principe. They just need to be able to do that against a decent defence.

Nigeria's final two AFCON qualifiers are against Sierre Leone in June, and Sao Tome e Principe in September.