Moses Simon was as close as it gets to being axed from the Super Eagles starting line-up last month.
Impressed by his speed, silky skills and willingness to take on and turn defenders, Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr had elevated him above Ahmed Musa as his starting wide forward on the right.
But with the position came responsibility; the responsibility to track back and help his fullback when defending. Simon, apparently, did not take that task seriously. At least not as seriously as he should have.
His tardiness in that regard largely went unpunished as Nigeria won game after game, both in friendlies and World Cup qualifying. However, shorn of the protection offered by captain John Mikel Obi's calming influence in midfield against South Africa, Simon's inadequacies were brutally exposed.
A keen stickler for detail, officials told KweséESPN that Rohr played the tape of the Bafana Bafana loss time and time again. And then some.
Among the things that reportedly stood out was Simon's part in at least one of the goals, where his failure to track back continually left his fullback isolated and exposed.
Team sources told KweséESPN that when the team congregated ahead of the Cameroon game, Rohr called Simon and gave him a stern dressing down, issuing him an ultimatum: track back, or sit on the bench.
The threat worked a charm. Not only was the forward involved in two of the goals, he was also back helping Shehu Abdullahi, and later Elderson Echiejile.
"It wasn't easy because I like to go forward and express myself," Simon told KweséESPN after. "But I had to do what the coach said."
Four days later, he found himself on the scoresheet in Yaounde, after coming in from deep to rifle home from Victor Moses' half-volley.
With Alex Iwobi now back in the squad after injury, the competition for places is even stiffer, and Simon will be well aware that if there is any time to knuckle down even further, it is now.
Zambia have the potential to present a very difficult test; one full of energy and running, and one which needs every Super Eagles player to be on their best game.
Having starred into the abyss and tracked his way back, Moses Simon will surely not be looking to return there.
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