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Unmasking Seychelles: Set pieces could be key vs. Nigeria

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Can Onyekuru replace Victor Moses? (1:26)

Ed Dove takes a closer look at the Super Eagles' side ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Seychelles. (1:26)

Nigeria's twin objectives going into this weekend's fixture against Seychelles are clear as daylight: win, and win handily"

Losing to South Africa in the opening round - at home to boot - and seeing Libya smash five past the hapless Seychelles has left the Super Eagles not just behind three points, but six goals behind the Libyans and two behind Bafana Bafana.

Getting back on track means not just securing three points, but doing everything to wipe off that goals deficit.

Seychelles were expected to be the group's doormat when the draws were made, and that walloping against Libya has done little to change that impression.

Head to head aside, goal difference against The Pirates might prove decisive in the final analysis.

Even if that is not to be the case, as CAF tie-break rules priorities head to head over net goals, the Super Eagles need to make a statement against one of Africa's minnows.

This means that not only do they need to be aggressive in their hunt for goals, they must keep the backdoor firmly shut in the process...and rightly so.

Seychelles have witnessed something of a turnaround since that capitulation in North Africa. Gavin Jeanne was installed and handed a two-year contract, and he has set about making them a difficult team to beat.

Against Libya, the team bunkered down, going 5-4-1 with Kelvin Coralie as the lone striker. His goal, on the stroke of 90 minutes, put some dignity on the scoreline, but by then, the Libyans had taken their feet off the gas.

Jeanne may not have reversed that bunkering down, but he appears to be trying to turn it into a weapon, exploiting counterattacking football and set pieces to punish opponents who attempt to go to sleep. The results have been solid if unspectacular.

Three of their last four international matches have ended in draws; two of those were in the COSAFA Cup tournament.

If the quality of the opposition - Comoros and Madagascar - is not likely to concern the Super Eagles, perhaps here is something that will: the Seychelles have also enjoyed good home form in qualifying, handing down a 2-0 defeat to Lesotho and claiming a 1-1 draw with Ethiopia at the Stage Linite in 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualification.

In March, they played a 0-0 draw with Swaziland on the same ground, and are clearly improving at the back.

Key to those results have been talented defender Warren Mellie and striker Elijah Tamboo. Both are expected to be involved against Nigeria.

This combination of improving results and home form, old and new, should be enough to give the Super Eagles - not the best of travellers in AFCON qualifying - cause for pause.

Jeanne's use of the quick counter yielded one of those goals, as did their set-piece routine. Nigeria's shortcomings at defending set pieces were well-documented in the build up to and during the World Cup.

Those tactics favour striker Coralie, who scored against Libya, and then against Comoros, but Jeanne was giving nothing away when asked.

"I cannot talk about how we will play now. We will know after our last training session before the match, then we will decide."

Rohr rightly pointed out in Russia over the summer, that his side did not concede a set-piece goal in African qualifying, so Jeanne's lads will have to go above and beyond to flip that script.

Deploying the imposing heights of defenders Betrand Esther and Benoit Marie would be an indication that Jeanne would be looking to exploit those weaknesses.

Whether they have the quality to do so, is another matter entirely; while their results against similar-tier opponents have been impressive, faced against opposition that is even a step above in quality has led to scores like 6-0 against Zimbabwe not long after the Libya shellacking.

Which may go some way towards explaining why Jeanne has called up Carl Hoppritch, who plays for Hertha Zehlendorf in the German Oberliga, as the lone player not playing in Seychelles.

Another addition outside the squad that played Libya is Nelson Laurence, an experienced player from St Michel who helped Seychelles win the football tournament in the Indian Ocean Island Games of 2011.

Neither significantly improves the quality, and the expected loss of Colin Bibi to injury is a setback that Jeanne could do without.

On that basis, it would appear that all the Super Eagles need to do is bring their A game in order to take down the team ranked 188th in the world.

However, they can take nothing for granted, stranger things have happened, and Nigeria have been on the receiving end of giant killings in the past.