This Day (Lagos)

18 December 2012

Nigeria: 10 NPL Players May Make Final Cut

Super Eagles Head Coach, Stephen Keshi, has said he would be fulfilled if at least 10 players from the Nigeria Premier League (NPL), make the final cut to next year's Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), in South Africa.

Keshi began training with 22 players from the domestic league Monday in Abuja and he expressed his hope to have as many of these players in the final 23-man squad for the Nations Cup if they prove to be better than their Europe-based counterparts in training camp.

"It will be my delight if 10 players prove good enough to make the championship roster and I will be happy if at all times four of such players start every game but you have to prove it on the pitch that you are ready for the challenge," he told the players before Monday morning training began.

A further boost for the home boys was the return to full fitness of Kano Pillars stars Papa Idris and Gabriel Reuben and Papa Idris.

There were fears that the two players who have been part of the national team setup from the home front since Stephen Keshi took over about a year ago may not be fit in time for the AFCON, but they came out sparkling in training yesterday morning at the practice pitch of the Abuja National Stadium.

Team doctor Ibrahim Gyaran passed them fit.

"The only fear I have is that since they have not played competitive football for some time they will still experience some mind jitters. But that is only a thing of the mind and the team psychologist, Robinson Okosun and the coaches are already working on that aspect," he declared.

Meanwhile, there are speculations that Keshi may shock some of the regular foreign-based professionals in Europe when the final team to the Faro Camp in Portugal is released before weekend.

"There will be a few shocks, otherwise it will be the usual suspects on the list with some players probably placed on standby," observed a Glass House source in Abuja Monday.

Holland-based defender Kenneth Omeruo is already one of the surprise call-ups as he has yet to be capped at full international level and was not involved in the qualifying tournament for the 2013 AFCON.

He has played at central defence for both the U17 and U20 teams but could well be considered for the problematic right fullback position which is where he plays for his Dutch club ADO Den Haag.

Spain-based striker Ikechukwu Uche, skipper Joseph Yobo, Ahmed Musa and Nosa Igiebor are among those called up for the AFCON.

Valerenga midfielder, Fegor Ogude, who was held back from joining the team's training camp in Abuja Monday following the birth of his baby girl is was expected to link up with the home-based Eagles at their Bolton White Hotel base Monday night.

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