Alex Iwobi shines, but goalkeeping woes continue for Nigeria

Goalkeeping errors over two games dominated reactions across the nation as Nigeria's international break ended with a 2-2 draw against Algeria's B team, and a 2-1 defeat, albeit controversial, to the A side.

Amid the din, it would be easy to miss the signs of continuing progress by the Super Eagles as Jose Peseiro's so-called rebuild of the Super Eagles continued apace.

Alex Iwobi was -- as he has been this season for Everton -- quietly sensational, Calvin Bassey finally got to flourish in his more natural centreback position, and Terem Moffi did himself no harm with another goal under the new boss.

Iwobi broke two lines of the Algerian press with one pass to set up a goal in the scrimmage, and then owned the midfield in the second game to leave Nigerians purring in appreciation of their midfield maestro.

At the back, the partnership between Bassey and Kevin Akpoguma, playing only for the first time together as a centreback pairing, looked less likely to buckle under pressure.

Peseiro was understandably pleased: "We did a fantastic job in defensive possession. I think we can do more in offensive possession. We can control more of the ball, we can show more character, we can be more aggressive."

Sadly, these signs of continuing progress were juxtaposed with old hair-tearing goalkeeping howlers that have plagued the Super Eagles since Vincent Enyeama unceremoniously left the national team, and Carl Ikeme was diagnosed with leukemia and retired.

First, Maduka Okoye, still in a precarious position after his Africa Cup of Nations mistake saw Nigeria eliminated from the tournament, suffered a rush of blood to the head in the opener. He tried to dribble an Algerian forward in his own six-yard box with outlets available to him, and ended up bundling the ball over his own goal line.

If that attempt was meant to restore his fragile confidence, the outcome resulted in the spectacular opposite. He did not return for the second half of that scrimmage, and was not listed for main game days later. His place was taken by Israel-based Adeleye Adebayo for the second half.

For the main game, the starting spot was taken by Francis Uzoho, who had replaced Okoye after the AFCON debacle (then proceeded to gift wrap the World Cup ticket to Ghana via his own error).

Okoye was not even listed on the subs bench for the second game. That honour, again, went to Adebayo. Uzoho then proceeded to position himself so badly that he could do nothing but admire Youcef Atal's blinder from nearly 30 yards as it whistled past him for the winner.

Peseiro, however, would not dwell on the issue, choosing instead to pivot to the referee errors which disallowed what looked like a good goal -- offside -- that would have seen Nigeria take a two-goal lead.

"Anybody can make mistake," he said. "But the first big mistake was our second goal. We scored a clear goal and the referee said offside. It was not offside. Everybody can see it was no offside."

Further up the field, Peseiro was also presented with the opportunity to look at some new faces.

Injuries to the likes of Victor Osimhen and Sadiq Umar, even before the squad was named, was added to by forwards Ahmed Musa, Henry Onyekuru and Samuel Chukwueze. This was followed by midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and defender William Troost-Ekong withdrawing after making their way to camp.

Shorn of some of his starters players, Peseiro took advantage, eventually featuring nine players new to international football. The coach was pleased with the improvements by his team.

He said: "I think we could beat Algeria, although they are a good team. I am sad because I lose, I don't like to lose any match but I am happy with the job my players did in the match.

"It is true the opponent created opportunities but our team created more opportunities. The main point is that I am very happy about what most of my players did."

Despite these losses adding to previous reversals against Mexico and Ecuador, Peseiro remains optimistic that he is on course to win the next AFCON.

"I am more confident than before after this match," he said. "One more step to that challenge to win the AFCON. Of course before that, we need to qualify, we need more camping, we need more friendly matches, because we want our team to play at a high level.

"For that we need to improve our organization, try new dynamics, new set pieces and work hard and believe that we can be better. We have the talent but we have to improve our organization."