6 June 2014

Nigeria: Keshi's Final 23-Man Squad and the Way Forward

Photo: Chris Ricco/Backpagepix
Emmanuel Emenike, 9, in action at the Africa Cup of Nations last year, will play a crucial role for the Super Eagles in Brazil. His pace and hard running style make him a dangerous opponent, but he also has the ability to bring others into the game and is a regular provider of assists.

With the release of Super Eagles 23-man list for the World Cup, our Correspondent Augustine Akhilomen takes an overview of the team and its chance at the tournament

At last, Nigerians can heave a sigh of relief after Super Eagles handler, Stephen Keshi released the 23-man list that will represent Nigeria at the forthcoming World Cup in Brazil.

Although, few people were not happy with the late release of the list, however, what is most paramount is the team success.

Stakeholders have expressed concern over the omission of some players such as Nnamdi Oduamadi, Nosa Igiebor, Ejike Uzoenyi and Nations Cup hero, Sunday Mba.

As humans, it is impossible to satisfy all, something which also put Keshi and every Nigerians in the same line of thoughts.

Without much ado, let's critically analyse this team based on its various departments and the players that have been selected for this great assignment in Brazil, in order to know whether Keshi has chosen the 'perfect' 23-man squad. Goalkeeping

As it stands, Lille safest hand, Vincent Enyeama remains Nigeria's number one as far as the goalkeeper department is concerned. His experience, exposure and undisputed qualities have made him an asset that could be relied upon at critical times. Enyeama's close save against Greece midfielder really showed why he's our numero uno. The likes of Austine Ejide and Chigozie Agbim are suspect in nature and may not provide that perfect cover-up for Enyeama if the unexpected happens.

For record sake, en-route France 98', Ike Shorunmu happened to be our best goalkeeper, only for him to sustain an injury few days to the World Cup. Super Eagles was exposed badly at the Mundial in spite of recalling Peter Rufai when we have Abiodun Baruwa and William Okpara to call upon.

Ejide's physical appearance simply puts him off the team coupled with the fact that, the Scotland game really exposed his poor flexibility and ball timing. As for Agbim, we have a goalkeeper who's only going to the World Cup to make up the numbers.

Atalanta '96 Olympic football gold medalist, Joseph Dosu, questioned Ejide and Agbim's physical and mental preparedness for the World Cup.

"As a goalkeeper, your physical nature will determine the rate of your flexibility and I am not really happy with Ejide's hefty nature because it may count against him in the long run. As for Agbim, I don't think we have a replacement for our two goalkeepers if they get injured."

Defence

Keshi named a mixture of experienced and youthful defenders that are ready to shed their blood for the team. One thing is certain about the defence, there is a cover-up for every positions.

For instance, if our regular back four such as Elderson Echiejile, Kenneth Omeruo, Godfrey Oboabona and Efe Ambrose sustain injuries or card suspensions, the coach could easily call on the likes of Azubuike Egwuekwe, Joseph Yobo, Kunle Odunlami and Juwon Oshaniwa to replace them.

Interestingly, all the eight invited defenders retain their position for the World Cup without anyone left behind. As far as this department is concerned, it is obvious that Keshi has made the right decision.

According to Former Super Eagles assistant coach, James Peters, Keshi's selection in all departments was best of players he had at hand, stressing that he may not have made any better choice.

"I think he has taken care of every department. The defence is okay, that is why I said there couldn't have been anybody better than what he has taken. So, if there is anybody better, we would have complained, but the whole positions he has taken care of them."

Midfield

Lots of question have been raised on why players like Oduamadi, Igiebor, Mba and Ejike failed to make the team's final 23-manlist despite their contributions before, during and after the World Cup qualifying series. Mba's case may have come as a shock to millions of Nigerians considering his contribution to the team winning the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa last year. He should have made the cut irrespective of his visa issue that delayed him. Mind you, that does not also mean that those that have been selected does not deserve their place too.

The team's midfield though look very strong and possesses the combative bite coupled with its attacking mentality with players such as Mikel Obi, Victor Moses, Ogenyi Onazi,Gabriel Reuben and Ramon Azeez, however, the team lacks that creative player like Austin Okocha, who could split and create those visionary passes for our strikers to score goals. Reuben seems to be the man with that creative instinct although Mikel could also be counted, but then his lack of playing times for his club may just slow down his proficiency.

When questioned on the obvious lack of creativity in the five-man midfield selected, which is composed of four defensive midfielders and one striker, General Manager of Abubakar Bukola Saraki FC, Alloy Chukwuemeka, said that the technical crew should be left to its choice, and should be supported nonetheless.

"It is purely a technical matter and for the fact that we are not coaches, we leave them to their choice and hope it gives us the desired result. All we owe them now is our supports," he said.

Forward

This could be one of Keshi's biggest weapons at the World Cup. Keshi should be credited for is his ability to strengthen the team with strikers that have proven themselves. Strikers such as Emmanuel Emenike, Michael Uchebo, Osaze Odemwingie, Uche Nwofor, Ahmed Musa, Michael Babatunde and Shola Ameobi are capable of destroying any opponent. Judging them based on their performances in terms of goals scored in Europe may not be enough to say our strikers lack that hunger to strike gold at the World Cup.

One thing is certain, the forward line is as good as any of the other teams at the World Cup in as much as the players take their chances.

Keshi has chosen the final 23-man squad that he feels will make Nigeria proud at the World Cup and rather than criticize him destructively, let's apply the constructive format in order to support his call to duty in Brazil.

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