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Ives Galarcep

Nigeria in Jacksonville provides perfect test for USA

Tags: Sony Handycam ®, USA

Mike BradleyIf Jurgen Klinsmann scheduled Saturday’s friendly against Nigeria in Jacksonville to get a taste of the sweltering heat of the Amazon during the World Cup, he may just get his wish as temperatures in the mid-90s threaten to bake participants when the U.S. national team takes on the reigning African champion.

Klinsmann will be more interested in the challenge Nigeria can present, and the Nigerians have the firepower to give the U.S. team a good sense of what will be awaiting in Natal next week when the Americans face Ghana.

 

No, Nigeria is not exactly a mirror image of Ghana stylistically, but the team does have attacking speed and midfield strength to test the areas on the field where the Americans could use a workout. Nigerian winger Victor Moses will be particularly tough to handle as the Chelsea winger should have the freedom to work both flanks in search of space. An injury to Ahmed Musa will likely ease some of the pressure off the U.S. fullbacks, but if Musa is healthy enough to start, then the Americans will have two quick wide players to deal with.

 

The Nigerians also boast some quality at the tip of their attack, with Emmanuel Emenike and Peter Odemwingie more than capable of punishing the mistakes the U.S. defense and midfield have been getting away with in recent Send-Off Series matches. Matt Besler should have a chance to re-assert his place as a top-choice center back when he’s paired against the quick and dangerous Emenike.

 

Perhaps the most impressive match-up of Saturday’s clash of World Cup participants will be in central midfield, where Michael Bradley and John Obi Mikel will look to steer their teams to victory. The U.S. central midfield has been trying to work out the kinks in recent matches against Azerbaijan and Turkey, and Klinsmann could decide to go with Kyle Beckerman in place of Jermaine Jones. Regardless of which player Klinsmann goes with, they will be tested by the central pairing of Mikel and Lazio midfielder Ogenyi Onazi.

Nigeria’s use of Mikel and Onazi as a deep-lying central midfield pairing could force Klinsmann to abandon thoughts of a 4-4-2 diamond, and bring back the 4-2-3-1 we saw so much off in World Cup qualifying. Leaving Bradley in an advanced position could leave Jones or Beckerman outnumbered in front of the defense, which could cause serious problems. It did just that in the 2-1 win against Turkey.
Overall, Saturday’s friendly is shaping up to be the perfect test for the U.S. team. The heat will test the team’s fitness, Nigeria’s attacking speed will test the U.S. defense, and Nigeria’s midfield will seriously challenge the Americans from a tactical standpoint.
The test is ready. Now the Americans just have to pass it.
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