Thursday, 12 June 2014

Dissecting Keshi’s 23

1-Vincent ENYEAMA
2-Joseph YOBO
6-Azubuike EGWUEKWE
7-Ahmed MUSA
9-Emmanuel EMENIKE
10-John Obi MIKEL
11-Victor MOSES
12-Ebenezer ODUNLAMI
14-Godfrey OBOABONA
15-Ramon AZEEZ
16-Austine EJIDE
17-Ogenyi ONAZI
18-Michael BABATUNDE
19-Uche NWOFOR
20-Okechukwu UCHEBO
21-Chigozie AGBIM
22-Kenneth OMERUO
23-Shola AMEOBI

Coach Stephen Keshi has built a somewhat formidable Super Eagles team so far by instilling discipline and a never-say-die attitude which has seen the players grind out results even when playing badly – within Africa. However, his choice of 23 players whom he believes can win the World Cup for Nigeria has proved, if nothing else, who “the boss” is!
The country is in a political era where personal interest supersedes every other, consequently, I do not think the interest of the country enjoyed very high priority during the compilation of the Super Eagles team list to the 2014 World Cup.

The undoubted first choice goalkeeper and assistant captain, Vincent Enyeama is as good as any in the World. The fate of the team will, to quite a large extent, depend on his performance.
On his day, Austin Ejide is a dependable second choice, though traces of his old jittery disposition against Scotland have raised concerns.
I make bold to say that Chigozie Agbim is not even the country’s fifth best goalkeeper. He has only made the World Cup team because he is one of Keshi’s personal favourites.

Joseph Yobo has obviously slowed down but realistically, he is still a better defender than Egwuekwe, plus he brings versatility, inspiration and experience.
A fringe member of the victorious AFCON squad, Juwon Oshaniwa is now the only natural left-back in the team. Obviously not Super Eagles material, so he will have to take advantage of not having to carry the weight of too much expectation to improve a shaky defense.
Godfrey Oboabona is the only viable product of Keshi’s affair with the home-based players, and he has made steady progress to become an undisputed first team member.
I hope Kenneth Omeruo recovers fully from a minor injury in time. His talent is not in doubt as he continues to develop potentially into a world class defender. He can play at right back as well.
Though a natural centre-back, Efe Ambrose has been played continually at right-back where he has not been convincing defensively. I fear this misadventure could cost the team tactically in Brazil.
A failed product of Keshi’s home-based affair, Azubuike Egwuekwe is clearly average (or even below average) as a player and unworthy of a World Cup place, yet Keshi has, like a good father, chosen to carry his “offspring” along, no matter how imbecilic.
Ebenezer Odunlami is a raw talent in centre-back, but Keshi seems bent on converting him to a right-back; another impending error.

Ogenyi Onazi has deservedly been one of the first names on the Eagles’ team list; a real trojan in the midfield offensively and defensively who will have to be less temperamental to escape the wrath of card-happy referees at the World Cup.
Ramon Azeez has not impressed in an advanced midfield role. I believe he would do better as a direct replacement or sidekick for Onazi.
Reuben Gabriel has got the potentials for, and perhaps a future in the defensive midfield role, but it’s wrong when a more seasoned player like Fengor Ogude is sacrificed to satisfy Keshi’s selfish plans going to a competition, the magnitude of the World Cup.
The experience and influence might still be there but John Mikel Obi has obviously lost a great deal of the creative propensity. I am sure he will want to redeem himself at the World Cup, but I am not sure he has all it takes to be that ‘Number 10’ anymore.
Michael Uchebo is a striker who has got the skill and guile required for the link up role Keshi has assigned him, but I seriously doubt his ability to assert himself tactically against some of the best at the world stage. Lukman Haruna has more guile, skill, experience and natural gift in this role.

Osaze Odemwingie is easily the most versatile player and one of the most experienced in the current team – the perfect credentials for a world cup – but he is no longer the young player of a few years ago. This will be his chance to redeem himself of all the controversy of the last few years, if only Keshi will play him to his strengths.
Ahmed Musa is another versatile attacking player with his exceptional pace being a tactical asset which must be utilized.
Keshi must have a personal agenda for Michael Babatunde if he can leave out players like Chinedu Obasi, Sone Aluko (and even Ejike Uzoenyi initially) because it is difficult to point out ONE major quality Babatunde adds to the team.
Ejike Uzoenyi was recalled following Echiejile’s withdrawal due to injury. Has the talent, but tends to fizzle out on the big stage. He will do himself and the team a lot of good if he can replicate his CHAN form this time.
Shola Ameobi looks to have lost form at the wrong time and so has a lot going against him, though he brings invaluable experience and leadership.
Emmanuel Emenike bears the goal scoring responsibility of the team and may find the going tough if Coach Keshi cannot get the team to be more creative.
Victor Moses is getting back to his true element and is certain to give his best as usual after a season marred by criticism. He needs to play more for the team, however.
Kudos to Coach Keshi for keeping faith in Uche Nwofor. He has proven himself to be a reliable poacher, and I hope he continues this way at the World Cup.

I know it is too late, but I cannot help imagining how much more confident and how much stronger this team would be if the very best players were chosen and Keshi had the tactical acumen to utilize them.

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