Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Make-or-mar summer of 2013

It’s no longer news that the Super Eagles face a very busy and decisive summer, starting with a friendly match against Mexico on May 30, back-to-back World Cup qualifiers against Kenya and Namibia on June 5 and 12 respectively, and then the FIFA Confederations Cup from June 17.

A look at the invited players for these matches reveals that Coach Keshi has stuck with largely his AFCON team, with only a handful of new invitees. Good idea. Keshi won the Nations cup despite widespread criticism of his selections, so it may seem unreasonable to question his choice of personnel at this point. Despite the Nations Cup victory however, I still strongly believe the Super Eagles will not fulfill its full potentials going by Keshi's short-sighted choice of personnel.

The draw against Kenya in Calabar was another bold pointer to the Coach’s poor tactical aptitude and he needs to improve his choice of players to cushion this. Luck – with which he won the Nations Cup – will only last some distance, not the entire journey.

My point here is that the team would play a lot better and win games with a lot more ease if certain better players were deployed. I acknowledge that not every player can or will be invited, but Keshi should drop this fool-hardy attitude of ignoring certain obviously talented players, especially those who played under Siasia.

Efe Ambrose struggled at right back throughout the Nations cup. Solomon Kwambe struggled against the Kenyans in Calabar. Yet keshi has refused to assess Daniel Adejo, or even Onyekachi Apam. Aside the unproven Juwon Oshaniwa, there is still has no reliable back-up for Uwa Echiejile.

Kenneth Omeruo and Godfrey Oboabona gave impressive accounts of themselves at the AFCON. But what happens in event of injuries or suspension? What Coach drops an experienced Joseph Yobo, but picks an imposing but sluggish Azubuike Aguekwe (when facing the prospect of meeting the likes of Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres and Neymar at the Confederations Cup)? No disrespect to Agwuekwe, but even Gege Soriola and Dele Adeleye are far better defenders, in my opinion.

Mikel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi, Fengor Ogude and Gabriel Reuben can hold their own in defensive midfield, but it does not take a magician to see that there is a dire need for creative reinforcement. Keshi has stuck with Sunday Mba (after all, he has been scoring decisive goals) and has so far ignore potentially better options like Lukman Haruna and even (currently injured) Emmanuel Ekpo of Molde. I dare to say that for all his heroics, Sunday Mba does not measure up to Lukman Haruna's quality and experience.

Ahmed Musa’s performance at the AFCON revealed that he was rushed into the first team. Osaze Odemwingie may be outspoken, but it is undeniable that he would have contributed far more immensely than Musa. More so, like Osaze Odemwingie (and Musa), players like Obinna Nsofor and currently injured Chinedu Obasi give coaches options with their skill and versatility across the frontline, but Coach Keshi has chosen to overlook Osaze and Nsofor, choosing instead to toss Brown Ideye around ineffectively from left, right to centre of the attack.

Ikechukwu Uche had a bad AFCON, but this surely does not mean he is no longer that clinical finisher we know him to be; and Keshi dropped him....
The team struggled in Emenike's absence during the AFCON Final as he was the most potent offensive threat with his aggression. Consequently, Emenike's replacement ought to be a player in his mould. Methinks is that Ekigho Ehiosun (you’ve all forgotten him already) of Samsunspor in Turkey or  6ft Osaremien Ebagua of Varese in Italy would be better type-for-type replacements for Emenike than Joseph Akpala – who only just recovered from an injury. Victor Anichebe and Michael Eneramo (with his impressive 11 goals in 28 games) were the other widely touted options, but for me, Anichebe has never (and I doubt if he'll ever be) Super Eagles' quality; Eneramo too.

The Mexico friendly was scheduled ahead of the competitive games; Keshi should have utilized it to assess other talented players whose little contribution will help propel the team when luck begins to run out – players like Gege Soriola, Dele Adeleye, Onyekachi Apam, Lukman Haruna, Emmanuel Ekpo, Osaze Odenwingie, Obinna Nsofor, Ekigho Ehiosun…

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