Once
again the debates have started in Nigeria. Enter the beer parlours (bars),
television viewing centers and social media, everyone who knows football is
talking about the players that Nigerian manager, Stephen Keshi has called up
for the final FIFA Brazil 2014 World Cup Qualifying game against Ethiopia.
What
bothers me here is not the average fan on the street or the illiterate in the
beer parlor or viewing center.
I
bother about the pundits on TV, radio and social media who go on and on
disparaging (I love this word) the coach every time he does something.
It
seems as if the national past time of Nigerians is to criticize public figures
for whatever they do or do not do.
I
actually expect to tune into radio and television sports shows to hear pundits
talk about the players invited, what they bring to the team, how the invitation
of a particular player could change the shape of the team and more educating
stuff like that.
But
in the case of Nigeria, every time there is a situation like this most people
begin to harp on players who were not invited adding insinuations that some
underhand dealings could have brought them into the team.
I
would rather listen to pundits who tell why they think new players have been
brought in, what they think they would add to the team and how the Eagles can
be better with them in the team.
I
prefer pundits who would tell me what the Eagles will miss by the absence of a
particular player through injury or suspension and how they think the coach can
tweak his formation to carter for that loss than cast aspersions on the
coaching crew because their favorite player was not invited.
THE FULL LIST
Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama
(Lille FC, France); Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel); Chigozie Agbim
(Enugu Rangers, Nigeria)

In
Vincent Enyeama, Nigeria has one of the best goalkeepers in the world (and this
is judging strictly from his form this season).
It
is still November and his club, Lille, not near the best in France where he
plays but he has comfortably kept 10 clean sheets this season including a 2-0
over big spenders, Monaco.
Just
two years ago, lots of Nigerians thought Enyeama should be dropped because he
was not first choice at Lille. Maybe Keshi knew what he saw in the keeper to
stick with him.
Austin
Ejide remains 2nd choice keeper and then Chogozie Agbim of local side, Rangers.
Personally,
I would have loved to see a keeper like Okiemute Odah of Warri Wolves, Theophilus
Afelokhai of Kano Pillars or even Augustine Brown of Dolphins, but the last
time I checked Stephen Keshi was coach of the team and China Acheru, just a
football blogger.
Defenders: Elderson
Echiejile (Sporting Braga, Portugal); Benjamin Francis (Heartland FC, Nigeria);
Efe Ambrose (Celtic FC, Scotland); Solomon Kwambe (Sunshine Stars, Nigeria); Godfrey
Oboabona (Rizespor FC, Turkey); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves, Nigeria);
James Okwuosa (Chippa United, South Africa); Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea FC,
England)

The
only new, addition (not so new anyway) in the defence of the team is Kenneth
Omeruo is is just returning from a shoulder injury.
Yes,
he has started training with the Chelsea U21 side and he has also had a game or
two under his belt but people think he is not fit enough to be called up.
Benjamin
Francis, Solomon Kwambe and Azubuike Egwueke (In pic) all play in the Nigerian League and
are perhaps three players most Nigerian critics will point to and say should
not be invited or say they have no business in the team.
If
Stephen Keshi did not stand his ground there is a possibility that the world
would not have heard of Godfrey Oboabona by this time.
Having
said that, critics have argued that there are better defenders in the Nigerian
League.
Actually,
critics think there are better defenders in the Nigerian League. I have watched
at least two League games a week for the last five seasons and I think that
players like Bright Esieme (Enyimba), Ogbonna Nelson (Heartland), Chinedu Udoji
(Enyimba) and Mutui Adegoke (Shooting Stars) deserve a chance in the Eagles.
But
I have decided to think out of the box.
Why
does Keshi maintain Oboabona and Omeruo in central defence and does not bother
much about Joseph Yobo’s return for now?
That
may just be because, Efe Ambrose who plays in right back is actually a center
back and plays that role with his club, Celtic.
Maybe
in case of an injury, Keshi knows that Ambrose can be drafted to central
defence but who fills in at right back.
Ogenyi
Onazi and Fengor Ogude can fill in at Right Back but isn’t it time the team go
for a natural full back? From the home league?
Bright
Esieme and Mutui Adegoke are two full backs who need a shot at that national
team shirt and maybe Mutui of all people should give Elderson Echiejile a run
for his money.
There
is also Azubuike Egwueke who has taken a lot of flak from Nigerians every time
he plays but I think he just needs more games, maybe against smaller sides to
get his confidence back.
I
started watching the Nigerian National team from the 1983 Olympic Games Qualifying
match against Morocco and between then and now there is one central defensive
partnership I believe to be the best.
No
its not Stephen Keshi/ Okechukwu Uche or Uche/ Chidi Nwanu. It’s not even Uche/
Taribo West but the one between Stephen Keshi and Sunday Eboigbe that held sway
from sometime in 1984 to 1988.
Stephen
Keshi was intelligent, a ball playing center back and had the brilliance of a
defending midfielder while his partner, Sunday Eboigbe was mean, big and
strong.
Eboigbe
He had limited skills apart from win the ball and let either Keshi or the likes
of Austin Igbinabaro (at NNB) or Muda Lawal (at the Eagles) do the business for
him thereafter, but as a man marker, Eboigbe was top notch.
He
was like the Nigerian version of Jurgen Kohler or Claudio Gentile, and had a
reputation for his hard tackling game.
The
first day I saw Egwueke at the Eagles I thought Keshi wanted to remake his
former partner in defence, Eboigbe but so far the Warri Wolves man has not
wowed fans with his performances.
But
Stephen Keshi knows why he keeps bringing him in. maybe, after a few games at
the Championship For African Nations, CHAN in January, Egwueke will be ready to
face the world.
Midfielders: John Mikel Obi
(Chelsea FC, England); Victor Moses (Liverpool FC, England); John Ogu
(Academica de Coimbra, Portugal); Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio, Italy); Nnamdi
Oduamadi (Brescia Calcio 1911, Italy); Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis, Spain); Sunday
Mba (Enugu Rangers,  Nigeria); Reuben
Gabriel (Kilmarnock FC, Scotland)
Nigerians
have cried out for Joel Obi to be back into the team while some feel that
Lukman Haruna deserves a shot at national team action.
And
while they have cried out for Haruna in the team, a lot want John Ogu out.

John
Ogu is not actually having a flourishing club career but he has not done badly
in the few games he played with the Eagles.
Though
bigger, he reminds me of Thompson Oliha of the late 80s and 90s, a trojan in
the midfield.
But
how can he get a regular playing time in the team? He has to displace John
Mikel Obi (who probably goes home with his jersey) and Ogenyi Onazi who is
already Nigeria’s favourite kid.
And
with Keshi sticking to a 4-3-3, Ogu remains back up for Obi and Onazi or he
fights for a place as creative midfielder in front of the two.
In
that case he fights to displace Sunday Mba (who has already been displaced),
Nosa Igiebor and Nnamdi Oduamadi who has been used in that role twice in recent
times.
Otherwise,
every good team needs a strong back up plan and Ogu can be one for the Super
Eagles. He has to watch out anyway as Rueben Gabriel is back in the team.
If
Keshi decides to play three hard tacklers as his three midfield men as he did
at the start of AFCON 2013, the Ogu could have a shot at a starting shirt, but
if the coach continues with one of the midfielders as the creative force up
there, then Ogu remains a back up, at least for now.
Rueben
Gabriel was the most promising of Keshi’s Eagles at the start of 2012. He is a
Patrick Vieira kind of player with more speed.
Then
there is also the bullish Fengor Ogude who could be recalled at anytime as well
as Joel Obi who Nigerians want in the team.
I
believe the Eagles have it covered in midfield.
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA
Moscow, Russia); Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kyiv, Ukraine); Shola Ameobi (Newcastle
United, England); Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce FC, Turkey); Obinna Nsofor
(Lokomotiv Moscow, Russia); Uche Nwofor (SC Heerenveen, The Netherlands)
Nigerians
want Osaze Odemwingie back. Nigerians also want Ike Uche, Kalu Uche and Victor
Anichebe’s return to the team.
Then
most Nigerians still do not understand what Shola Ameobi does in the team while
Brown Ideye has been criticized for turning himself into the Super Eagles’
modern day “Mr. Miss it”
I
think Shola Ameobi is an older version of Emmanuel Emenike and is a good squad
player.
Speaking
to Ameobi he says he is happy to eventually get his chance to be an
international and says Keshi sees him as a player that could help the team on
and off the pitch especially with his age and the fact that Nigeria has a
really young team.
Anichebe
has to decide to want to play for Nigeria and he could be a good back up plan
but for the players invited, it is obvious that Keshi will stick to his
“Big man upfront” tactic which is Emmanuel Emenike (In pic).
Uche
Nwofor proved in that game against South Africa that he could be a “fox in
the box” for the team but the strikers may not be effective unless they
get balls from the midfield.
Stephen
Keshi has ninety minutes to write his name in gold and enters the home leg with
a 2-1 advantage so things can’t be rosier for him.
The
Eagles may well fly to Brazil and after that, with friendly games played, more
players could just sneak in to the team, but for now I stand with Keshi on his
team selection.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I pretty much agree with you on just about everything including a sway to the notion of having odemwingie back. No matter his previous theatrics…it doesn't change the fact that he adds flair to the options we have upfront, a tireless worker and quite nifty too. Good Read.

  2. Nice one Mr China, I think you have everything rightly said.., my only area of. Interest would be that of our full backs, we don't seem to have enough replacements there especially the left full back position

  3. Agree with you on this China! As long as Keshi keeps winning us games then his decisions should not be questioned. Yea, Bright Esieme could be a good cover for Ambrose. The guy moves back forth and back with such ease. Mutui? The guy is about Taiwo's age biko! Keshi could as well call back the "Tornado".lol… Another great piece

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