Sighs of relief heaved in far away Faro and Nigeria reached the crescendo on Wednesday night as list of the 23 Super Eagles picked to represent Nigeria at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations was made public. The tension which mounted as a result of the long wait instantly dissolved leaving tears of happiness and pain to flow freely in so many hearts. For the players who made the cut, it was sighs of relief but for those who fell by the way side, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
After playing the usual hide and seek,athe Nigeria Football Federation late on Wednesday night made public the list of players which included three goal keepers, seven defenders, six midfielders and seven strikers. There were no surprise inclusions as most of the players who made the list were on the one which Keshi rubbished as speculative.
Of the 23 Eagles, only five, Joseph Yobo,Vincent Enyeama, Mikel Obi, Austin Ejide, Elderson Echiejiele and Ikechukwu Uche have been to the Nations Cup before. The remaining members of the squad will be having their AFCON debut in South Africa.
We therefore take a look at the profiles of the six 'lucky' Home based Eagles, Chigozie Agbim, Azubuike Egwuekwe, Godfrey Oboabona, Sunday Mba, Reuben Gabriel and Ejike Uzoenyi as well as the other 11 foreign based Eagles who will be in South Africa for their baptism of fire as far as the Africa Cup of Nations in concerned.
Ahmed Musa is a known name among Nigerian football fans. The CSKA of Moscow inspirational player came close to playing for Nigeria at the 2010 FIFA World Cup under Coach Lars Lagerback but was stopped by an ankle injury. Although he has remained a regular in the Super Eagles since 2010, he will be making his debut in South Africa because Nigeria did not qualify in 2012.
Onazi Eddy Ogenyi is another former junior international in the team. A member of the 1999 Golden Eaglets who won silver when the cadet championship was hosted in Nigeria, Onazi Ogenyi currently plays for Lazio in the Italian Serie A. The former My Peoples Academy player made his debut for the Super Eagles on November 13 in the 2012 AFCON qualifying match against Liberia where he came on as a substitute. He played in his second match two days later, scoring his first international goal in a 3-1 friendly win against Venezuela in Miami, Florida.
Reuben Gabriel: The combative midfielder who plays for reigning NPL champions Kano Pillars had his debut for the Super Eagles in the 5-2 win against D.R. Congo in March 2010. Prior to his senior national team debut he was a member of the Nigeria B team that won the 2010 WAFU Nations Cup. He scored his first goal for Eagles against Malawi in the 89th minute of a June 2012 World Cup qualifier. Gabriel's rising profile slowed down due to a nagging groin injury as he could not make more appearances for the Eagles. He is said to have regained full fitness and is ready for action.