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‘Same strategy’: Nigeria coach reveals the tactic he used to stop Salah, was also deployed against Michael Jordan 

‘Same strategy’: Nigeria coach reveals the tactic he used to stop Salah, was also deployed against Michael Jordan 

Augustine Eguavoen, Nigeria’s coach, says he was inspired by basketball to stop Mohamed Salah on Tuesday evening. At the Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria defeated Egypt 1-0.

On Tuesday, Mohamed Salah began his Africa Cup of Nations campaign – but not in style. Egypt was defeated 1-0 by Nigeria in a game that they never really got into. Salah, in particular, struggled to find his footing in the fixture.

And that, according to Nigeria coach Augustine Eguavoen, was due to some basketball inspiration.

“Basketball is one game that I love so much,” he said after the game, per the BBC. “When you are playing against the likes of Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan and others if you don’t double-team you’ll have a problem.

“That is the same strategy that I bring into football. So when Mo Salah is with the ball, the closest person goes to him and the next person has to double-team to make him play back.

“It worked for us like 80%, but Salah broke loose one or two occasions which is normal, but again congratulations to the boys because they are so intelligent.”

How double-team work

How do you stop the best player in the world? Apparently, he was double-teamed and forced to play the ball backwards. It works in basketball, so why wouldn’t it work in this situation?

Eguavoen is completely correct – double-teaming is an excellent basketball strategy. Because elite players can dominate one-on-one against most defenders, creating 2-v-1 situations works best for the defense. It’s much more difficult to shield the ball – or do anything – when you’re surrounded by two defenders.

However, there is a catch. When two players defend an opponent, someone on the court is left open for a free shot. That’s something Jordan used to his advantage in some pivotal moments throughout his career, making sure to find that open man – whether it was John Paxson or Steve Kerr – to hit a game-winning basket in NBA Finals matchups.

All of this translates to football. It’s not quite as dangerous to double-team as it is in basketball, but the results can be very similar. This season, we’ve seen it at Liverpool.

Teams try to crowd Salah with defenders because he, too, is nearly unstoppable one-on-one. Teams that play a back three or five are usually the best at this – they can press the Egyptian with their wing-back while having a centre-back cover immediately.

But it still means swarming Salah with defenders as much as possible. However, as in basketball, this creates space in other areas, which Liverpool has taken advantage of this season. Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota, for example, can thrive in that extra space, creating far more shooting opportunities for themselves.

They didn’t have Mane or Jota, after all. In fact, aside from Salah, they didn’t have much. Their entire strategy seemed to be based on hoping that their captain would act on his own.

That’s extremely difficult for any player, and Salah was constantly isolated against multiple defenders when he had the ball. Egypt must find a way to compensate for this by either moving the Liverpool star wider or giving him more options up top.

Otherwise, every team will mimic Nigeria’s tactics. And they will be effective.


‘Same strategy’: Nigeria coach reveals the tactic he used to stop Salah, was also deployed against Michael Jordan 

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