Monday, 22 October 2012

South Africa 2013: That Super Eagles team

Congratulations to Nigeria and kudos to Coach Stephen Keshi and his crew for the securing the Nations Cup ticket. It’s now time to start planning for the tournament proper which is coming up in only a few months time.

While the 6 – 1 score line somewhat (temporarily) dispelled the team’s growing reputation for lack of scoring-ability, the overall performance equally erased doubts about the team’s ability to dominate and win matches convincingly. For once, we saw a group which played with verve and purpose, in great contrast with a labourious and lackadaisical disposition in previous games.
It is worthy to note at this juncture that the seeming improvement in performance can be attributed to the changes made in the team’s composition. Keshi’s insistence on the home-based lads without the inclusion of foreign-based players in crucial qualifying matches would only have resulted in doom.

Only with our best players will we regain our pride of place in world football. The league a player plays in, the club a player plays for, and sometimes his club form should not be the only indices for invitation to the National Team, especially the Super Eagles of Nigeria. Ike Uche for instance has had a very woeful goals return in Europe in the last two seasons, yet no other striker currently in the national team has been more efficient in front of goal within this period.
As an experienced player and coach, Keshi should be smart enough to acknowledge that any international competition requires players who can deliver in national colours, and not just “players who are doing well in their clubs”. Keshi should concentrate on our best players (with talent, attitude and experience) irrespective of where they play. He should abhor all forms of sentiment and influences in his choice of players for the South Africa bound team.

I applaud Keshi’s restoration of commitment and a fighting spirit in the Eagles; a course pioneered during Siasia’s brief regime. But determination alone does not win competitions; it does not make up for deficiencies in a team – and there are glaring lapses in the current team.
The defense has remained very vulnerable, the midfield is still lacking in creativity while the attack – despite the flattering final score line against the Liberians – is wasteful.
For success in South Africa and beyond, Keshi should endeavour to complement the right attitude with the right quality in every department.

With all the current towering presence therein, does our backline have the pre-requisite pace, experience and character to effectively contain players like Didier Drogba, Arouna Kone and Felix Katongo if it was not able to stop less experienced Liberian, Malawian and Rwandan strikers from scoring?
With almost entirely defensive-minded midfielders, can our midfield comfortably unlock tactically-compact opposing midfields and create chances for the attack?
With seeming emphasis on physically aggressive strikers, do we truly have an attack that will convert half-chances when it really matters?
These lapses need to be addressed. Keshi needs to build a balanced team of talented, dedicated and versatile players with all round abilities and experience.

At the back, Onyekachi Apam, Dele Adeleye and Gege Soriola should be deployed. Fengor Ogude is our best defensive midfielder at the moment, while Haruna Lukman and Emmanuel Ekpo’s skills, incisive vision and shooting ability will boost the midfield’s creativity.
Osaze Odemwingie remains a very vital offensive weapon from the midfield to the wings and across the front line, just like the versatile duo of Obinna Nsofor and Chinedu Obasi.
Keshi has hinted on the recall of Victor Anichebe but I consider Ekigho Ehiosun who is equally aggressive yet more efficient, a better option, just like Obafemi Martins, a seasoned poacher in the Nigerian shirt.

I think a potential winning team with a lot of confidence could be drawn from:
Enyeama, Ejide, Vanzekin, Agbim
Apam, Oboabona,
Echiejile, Nkume, Taiwo
Yobo, Ambrose, Adeleye, Soriola, Aguekwe
Ogude, Nwankwo, Mikel, Obi, Reuben*
Igiebor, Haruna, Ekpo*
Odemwingie, Moses, Musa, Uzoenyi, Oduamadi*
Uche, Martins
Obasi, Nsofor, Ehiosun, Ideye

*currently injured

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