Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Nigeria's 2014 World Cup squad: the best of the Eagles?

I refused to comment here on the Super Eagles 30-man preliminary world cup list. I was rather pre-occupied with how the final list would look. Now after the debates accompanying the long wait for deadline day, we now know the 23 players who will fly the country’s flag during the 2014 World Cup. No list of players for the national team can ever be satisfactory and so, as expected, there has been mixed feelings, opinions and reactions on the part of all concerned.

Much as our opinions and would-be preferences vary as to which players should be in the squad to Brazil, there is still a common denominator. This being that clearly, THIS IS NOT Nigeria’s best 23 PLAYERS at this point going by the lack of sufficient quality in the team.

Until the Scotland friendly, the team’s goalkeeping position looked quite secure. Austin Ejide had proven to be nearly as good as Vincent Enyeama. So it was rather surprising to see some of his jittery and sloppy past – plus that controversial second goal… I pray sincerely that Vincent Enyeama stays injury-free because I honestly don’t think Chigozie Agbim has what it takes at this level, while Ejide has just raised serious doubts.

This is where I have the most fear for the team as presently constituted. Coach Keshi never gave himself much options here when he made his selection for the initial thirty. It is clear he is keeping faith with his AFCON and CONFED Cups’ back line, which is not a bad idea, only that the World Cup is a totally different proposition. The lack of a natural right wingback, an aging Joseph Yobo, a sloppy Azubuike Egwuekwe and an inexperienced Kunle Odunlami do not inspire the confidence required, going into a competition the magnitude of the FIFA World Cup.

The midfield has maintained its trademark of being more defensive minded in Coach Keshi’s time so far. Herein lies my problem with the team’s midfield; that lack of creative cutting edge. All the high work-rate is counter-productive when all the energy is channeled at preventing goals than creating them. Nosa Igiebor and Sunday Mba have clearly not provided the prerequisite creative incision, but is Michael Uchebo (who is actually a striker) the redeemer? I hear Osaze Odemwingie may try out in the third midfield player role…

Now here is where I get the shocker in the 23-man squad. If Ejike Uzoenyi could not make the final team due to the presence of the Victor Moses, Ahmed Musa, and Osaze Odemwingie on flanks, how did Michael Babatunde manage to get on the plane? Of course (and perhaps because) Coach Keshi is the one who has the prerogative of decision…

Kudos to Coach Keshi however, for keeping faith in Uche Nwofor; I sincerely hope he delivers at the highest stage. I have never doubted his talent (watching him come through from the Under-20 side), his predatory instincts have remained intact despite an inactive year domestically. I suppose this just proves that I am right when I say that certain players should be judged on talent and productivity in the national team not predominantly on club performance – or lack thereof.
Unfortunately, we can do nothing about the list other than to debate and pray from the best. I sympathize with the dropped player - especially those due to injuries - and wish the team more of that luck that has brought it thus far.


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