By Nduka Orjinmo
Nigeria’s
coach Stephen Keshi did what would have been considered unthinkable when he
named six home based players to represent the country at the 2013 Nations Cup
in South afrrica.
Not
that this should have made news since countries like Egypt and Zambia have in
recent times, successfully campaigned victoriously at the Nations Cup with
teams made up of over ninety percent home based players.
For
the cynics who doubted Keshi’s promise to give Nigeria an alternative team and
rescue it from the whims of foreign based players who in time past have failed
to wedge the needed commitment needed to qualifier then campaign at the Nations
Cup, the proof of six stars from the Nigeria Premier League must have hit them
smack in the face.
For
such persons, an “alternative” team must comprise those who play in the back
water leagues globally. The more conservative went for those who play in lower
divisions in Europe.
Chigozie
Agbim, Azubuike Egwueke, Godfrey Oboabona(In pic), Ejike Uzoenyi, Gabriel Reuben and
Sunday Mba have been in the home based Eagles set up, since the team was
birthed two Christmas ago by Stephen Keshi. 
Whether
or not they are the best in the league remains debatable and debates will rage
further concerning the sentiment that may have gone into the final selection.
Ejike
Uzoenyi looks overweight, Gabriel Reuben is not 100% fit. For a coach that has
repeatedly said the team is like a family, would it have been extremely
difficult for him to drop some players? Possible.
With
six chosen for the AFCON challenge, the cynics moved their argument from the
now stale tag of training materials to bench warmers. Tactical boards have been
drawn in bars, formations penned floors, and the permutations have gone
endlessly. The cynics now say none of the home based lads is going to start any
game at the Nations Cup.
“They
are not good enough”, “they lack the big game mentality”,” they can easily be
intimidated by other bigger opponents from other countries”,” they will be too
timid to play their game”. So the cynics say.
In
the solitude of my room, where no argument but only thought ferments, I asked
myself, which of the home based players will impress at the Nations Cup? But no
sooner had I put wheels into thought than a bigger perspective swelled in my
head. To impress you have to play, so who amongst them has the brightest
chances of playing, then impressing?
Chigozie Agbim
Position: Goalkeeper
Competitive
matches played:

4
Competition: Vincent
Enyeama, Austin Ejide
Chances: very slim. The
goalkeeping position always picks itself out in most teams. This position
hardly tolerates dispute and Agbim is third choice. With Ejide recuperating
from that muscle strain, Agbim’s chances moved from non-existent to very slim.
Azubuike Egwueke
Position: Centre back
Matches played: 7
Competition: Joseph Yobo,
Efe Ambrose, Godfrey Oboabona, Keneth Omeruo
Chances: Good. On a
broader scale of grading centre backs, Egwueke comes up against other CB’s in
the team. However, if that is pruned to role specification, then he has to
contend against Efe Ambrose and Joseph Yobo. These are the other player s who
play the number 6 position or the last man. Egwueke is not helped by the fact
that he is not versatile. Amongst the lot, he is the only one that can’t fit
into two roles. Well, he has not being tried so it is difficult to say. The
other four can play either as centre backs or right backs, increasing their
chances of playing.
Gabriel Reuben
Position: Central
Midfielder
Matches played: 9, 1 goal
Competition: Mikel Obi,
Ogeyi Onazi, Obiora Nwankwo, Fengor Ogude
Chances: Unknown. There
are many questions surrounding the Kano Pillars man and his inclusion in the
team. Eyebrows would not have been raised if he was fit, but the cloud around
his fitness and his subsequent inclusion has tongues wagging.  I don’t think he is fit, despite playing
against Spatar Rotterdam in a training match. If he were fully fit and with the
Eagles playing a double pivot, I would have favoured him to play alongside
Mikel Obi.
Ejike Uzoenyi
Position: Wing Forward
Matches played:
7
Competition: Ahmed Musa,
Victor Moses
Chances: Very Good.
Overweight, but do you blame him? He has been out of competitive football since
October when the league ended and his performances in the team have dwindled
largely.  Difficult to predict how
Stephen Keshi would line out his team, but a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 are his preferred
options. Whichever ways, Ejike will play on the left or right wing where
competition is thin. He will most likely come from the bench each time he will
play. But he will.
Sunday Mba
Position: striker
Matches played;
4, 3 goals
Competition: Emmanuel
Emenike, Ike Uche, Brown Ideye
Chances: Unknown. Little
has been seen of this man in most of the matches for the Super Eagles, but
those who have seen him play for his club Warri wolves wonder why he is still
in the local league. He is too good to still be home based they say. He must
have impressed the coaches a lot during the training camp in Faro to have been
shortlisted in the end. Whether he will play or not remains to be seen, but you
don’t get picked ahead of a certain Bright Dike, ‘’US based” and don’t get
played. Moreover, every coach needs a championship joker.
Godfrey Oboabona
Position: defender
Matches played:
6
Competition: Kenneth Omeruo,
Joseph Yobo, Azubuike Egwueke, Efe Ambrose
Chances: very strong.
Oboabona’s
football career actually came to the fore in his last year in secondary school
some six years ago.
While
in his final year he played for OSFODEC (Ondo State Football Development Committee),
an academy of some sorts based in Akure.
While
playing for OSFODEC in a state FA Cup game against Sunshine Stars, he did so
well that he was signed on by Sunshine Stars as he finished from Secondary
School.
The
chances of Godfrey Oboabona starting games for the Eagles at the Nations Cup
are the brightest amongst the home based players. Whether or not he will
impress is as unknown as the content of a gift pack.
The
Sunshine Stars captain went as far as the semi-finals of the CAF champions’
league with his team before they lost out to eventual winners Ahly.
What
he has going for him is his versatility; he can slot in at the right or fill in
at the centre back.
However,
Coach Keshi has shown confidence to play him at the heart of the defence,
pairing him with several other centre backs.
His
strong points are his fearlessness and ruggedness, traits that could very well
serve him at the Nations Cup.
He
also has a good leap for a man his size and though not a very big fellow, he
has excellent balance and can play the ball out quite considerably from the
back.
In
the Nations Cup qualifier against Rwanda in June last year, he comfortably
received the ball from goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama and was able to build up play
severally. This was clearly an instruction from the bench which he did quite
well, because in subsequent matches he did not receive the ball from the back
as the goalkeeper hit it long while he too forked out high long balls when he
intercepted the ball.
However,
most of his strong points are also his weaknesses. His has been described as a
penalty waiting to happen because of his playing style-aggression and ruggednes-while
his tendency to commit rash tackles and untimely application of force around
the danger area means free kicks and penalties are often handed out like
candies.
The
mistake Stephen Keshi will make would be to play him on the right side of
defence, a position thankfully he has not been experimented in, in the Super Eagles.
Anyone
who wants proof of his ability in that position should watch the second leg of
the semi-final game between Sunshine Stars and al Ahly. He was simply
atrocious. Whatever coach Gbenga Ogunbote was thinking cracked like egg shells
in the first half.
His
positioning is the worst of all the players in the team at the moment, and for
a defender, it could be mightily costly.
In
the friendly game against Venezuela, Oboabona was all over the place constantly
running at cross-purposes with Egwueke, ruining the shape of the defence on
several occasions and forcing the left-back Echiejile to always come inside,
offering yards of space on that side.
I
would trace this deficiency to his domestic upbringing and lack of proper
schooling in the game. Not set in the dictum of positioning as a footballer
early on in his career, it will take only a good and patient coach with the
desire to tutor, to set him straight.
His
judgment and decision making I also don’t trust, having seen him many at times
hesitate precariously before deciding.
After
the game against Liberia in Monrovia, captain Joseph Yobo came out to say he
wasn’t comfortable playing with the home based lads in defence-a statement he
later denied making-but could it be down to the decision making of Oboabona who
partnered with him in the game.
Former
Eagles striker Jonathan Akpoborie had also questioned the decision to play
Oboabona and Egwueke in the home game against Liberia. In his opinion, they
stifled the midfield of the ball with their long balls straight to the attack
and they made the job of the central midfielders quite difficult be sitting too
deep. I agree with him.
Though
it is not known what formation coach Keshi will play in the tourney as he has
flirted with a loose 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 formation, it is assumed he will go with a
4-4-3 during the Nations Cup.
This
system is possession based and would need a patient build-up from the back. On
the big stage and with an European contract looming in his mind, will Oboabona
be calm in possession? Will he refuse the urge to sit deep?

5 COMMENTS

  1. There are so many things wrong with this Article:
    1. It is focused a lot more on Godfrey than the other players.

    2. How exactly is Ejike Uzoenyi overweight? I think you're mistaking him for Bright Dike.

    3. If Yobo denied the statements then what was the point of speculating that Godfrey was at fault? Did you even watch the match?

    4. Any one that really paid attention to the Venezuela match would know that Kwambe was the sole reason why our defence was disjointed.

    5. Don't take anything Akpoboire has to say about Keshi's Eagles seriously, because we all know that he hates everything local, and would rather have a coach like Lagerback in charge of the team.

    6. Zambia's team was not even up to 50% home based.

    7. Bright Dike is a very poor player….
    I don't know how Nigerians can be celebrating such a poor player, but it's just mu opinion.

    PS. 4-4-3 is not a formation

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