Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Osaze Compounds Keshi's Headache

The first weekend of November was quite an eventful one for one of Nigeria's most talented footballers, Peter Osaze Odemwinge. He made the headlines for both the right and wrong reasons.

Initial reports quoting the chief coach of the national team, Stephen Keshi said the Westbrom forward said he had called it quits with the national team. Then followed the denial by Keshi, saying that he was misquoted. "Osaze only complained of having been treated badly," the coach said, and went on to explain how pained the player was at the treatment.

The next day, Keshi told the world that the Edo State born striker had made a U-TURN, announcing his readiness to play for Nigeria again.

A few hours after that news broke out, Osaze banged in two goals for his English Premier League side, Westbrom in a 2-0 win that catapulted them to the fifth position in the league table.

Osaze's U-turn has raised fresh questions on how coach Stephen Keshi would have to cope with the glut of strikers at his disposal, just as the Africa Cup of Nations is coming closer. Keshi once expressed concern over his inability to have everybody to play during the qualifiers.

The problem would even be more now that the tournament proper is here as those who qualified the country would be hard done if left out for the finals.

At the last count, Nigerian strikers available for selection include Obafemi Martins, Osaze Odemwinge, Brown Ideye, Emmanuel Emenike, Ikechukwu Uche, Victor Moses, Peter Utaka, Ejike Uzoenyi, Kalu Uche, Ahmed Musa, Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi, Victor Anichebe, Obinna Nsofor and a host of others.

The imminent inclusion of the likes of Osaze Odemwinge and Obafemi Martins is likely to cause friction among the players. So, what should Keshi do in South Africa in order not to rupture the unity the Super Eagles are witnessing now?

"Simple," volunteered Okey Isima. "There is no problem in giving every Nigerian player a chance. We have players all over the world and we need the best to represent this country. It doesn't matter whether those who will eventually make the team participated in the qualifiers or not."

"Our strength lies in the unity among us," Super Eagles midfielder, Nosa Igiebor told this reporter in Calabar, soon after the team's overwhelming victory over the Lone Star of Liberia. "Right now we don't have small or big players in the team, all of us are young, we go out there to fight it out on the pitch and whoever plays does so for the team."

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