Thursday, April 17, 2014

OK, You Can Have Your Say

Dear Mumini,
Your article (NFF-Keshi Crisis. What Crisis?) was very timely because it helped to douse some of the tension and controversy that were building up around the selection of Nigeria's World Cup squad. I believe that everybody (including the NFF officials) now agrees that coach Stephen Keshi is the right person to pick the squad without interference from any quarters.

But before Keshi has his WAY as you put it, we the soccer fans also deserve to have our SAY in the matter because we equally have a stake in the Super Eagles. Therefore, I suggest that Complete Sports should organize a sort of referendum for us on the list of players we will like to see at the World Cup. Keshi may reject our suggestions, but we want to have our SAY anyway.  ----Dr. A.O. Martins, Abuja.

THE FOREGOING is one of the letters that flooded in, in reaction to my article last week. And I have decided to respond affirmatively to the request made by the writer.

Indeed, my intention is NOT to discourage or muffle public opinion on the Super Eagles World Cup squad list. That would be unjournalistic, unfair and even impossible since we all have a right to hold and express our opinion on public issues, especially in the modern age of social media. My main objective was (and still is) to remind everyone concerned about the standard line of authority on the subject matter, so that we could avoid the unnecessary conflict that we seemed to be heading towards.

With Stephen Keshi's final authority on players' selection now presumably given full recognition by all concerned, of course there's no harm if the soccer fans have their say  before the coach has his way. I have therefore requested Complete Sports editors to compile a list of all the players that took part in Nigeria's World Cup qualifiers, the 2013 Confederations Cup, plus others that Keshi has featured in friendly matches during the last one year as he sought to rebuild the Eagles into a formidable force.

Readers are free to choose their 23-man list from the players, but remember to have a good balance of goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and strikers in the squad.

Those whose selection match, or come closest to matching Keshi's final squad will receive a special prize in due course.
See full list below...


Keshi’s World Cup Candidates


GOALKEEPERS
VINCENT ENYEAMA (LOSC Lille Metropole): Enyeama has been in fine form for Lille this season, keeping clean sheet after clean and has become an invaluable asset to Stephen Keshi.

AUSTIN EJIDE (Hapoel Be'er Sheva): Despite playing second fiddle to Enyeama for the past decade, Ejide is so good that nobody will bat an eyelid if Enyeama (GOD FORBID) is unavailable and the Israel-based keeper has to step in.

DANIEL AKPEYI (Warri Wolves): The Warri Wolves safe hands is a regular in the home-based Eagles set-up and was at the Championship of African Nations this year.

CHIGOZIE AGBIM (Gombe United): The goalkeeper led the home-based Eagles to a third place finish at CHAN in South Africa. He currently plies his trade with Gombe United.

DEFENDERS
EFE AMBROSE (Glasgow Celtic): The Celtic defender has made the Eagles right-back position for the Eagles his own after initially struggling in the position, although he plays in central defence for his Scottish club where he helped them to a successive title in the Scottish Premiership.

GODFREY OBOABONA (Caykur Rizespor): Oboabona was a raw defender when he was called up to the national team, but the young man has transformed into a confident, competent gem of a centre-back who can shut out the best strikers in the game.

KENNETH OMERUO (Middlesborough): Since returning to action with Championship side Middlesbrough, Kenneth Omeruo has regained the form which saw him dislodge skipper Joseph Yobo from the Eagles starting line-up.

ELDERSON ECHIEJILE (AS Monaco): He is Nigeria's number one left-back at the moment since the quiet exit of Taye Taiwo from the national team and that's not likely to change before June.

AZUBUIKE EGWUEKWE (Warri Wolves): When it comes to the deputies in the heart of the Eagles defence things are not quite so clear cut but the surest one seems to be Warri Wolves' Azubuike Egwuekwe. He has been called up to shore up the defence each time injuries and suspensions affect the regular starters

JOSEPH YOBO (Norwich City): The 2002 and 2010 World Cup veteran has settled his rift with the Big Boss and despite missing out on the Mexico friendly in Miami he has a shot at making it to Brazil.
JUWON OSHANIWA (Ashdod): A fringe player in the Nations Cup-winning team. The left-back now plies his trade with Israeli Premier League club Ashod.

SOLOMON KWANBE (Sunshine Stars):  The Sunshine Stars defender is well known in the Nigerian Premier League and the home-based Eagles team. The Sunshine Stars player is currently seeking a move abroad.

JAMES OKWUOSA (Chippa United): A central defender who is a former stalwart of the home-based Eagles team. He currently plies his trade with Chippa United in South Africa.

KUNLE ODUNLAMI (Sunshine Stars): A defender who currently plies his trade with Sunshine Stars. He is a regular feature in the home-based Eagles.

LEON BALOGUN (Fortuna Dusseldorf):  He got his first cap for Eagles in the friendly against Mexico recently but got injured early in the game. The Fortuna Dusseldorf defender will need to get additional trial games before he can be well assessed.

MIDFIELDERS
MIKEL OBI (Chelsea): Mikel remains key to the Eagles midfield as he is currently the leader of the new generation of players in the Eagles, even if he has not seen much action at Chelsea lately.

OGENYI ONAZI (SS Lazio): The Lazio midfielder has become the perfect partner for John Mikel Obi in the heart of the Eagles defence and has showed his exceptional skills both defensively and offensively.

VICTOR MOSES (Liverpool): Never mind his match rustiness, Moses' pace and mazy runs  have dug the Eagles out of holes several times. The Liverpool star has scored twice this season in the EPL this season.

SUNDAY MBA (CA Bastia): There seems to be at the end of the tunnel for AFCON hero Sunday Mba, who is thriving at CA Bastia in the Ligue 2 in France.

NNAMDI ODUAMADI (Varese): The rise of Nnamdi Oduamadi with Varese suggests he has a chance of making the squad, especially if he maintains the high standard in the Serie B where he has scored four goals in nine games since returning to the club.

RAMON AZEEZ (Almeria): The former youth international got his Eagles break against Mexico and did not fare badly. He has to go the extra mile to grab a spot in the midfield for the World Cup.

RAHEEM LAWAL (Eskisehirspor): - Instabillity at the club level robbed him of making his mark in the Eagles when Keshi took charge of the team. The talented midfielder is now settled at Turkish Super Lig side, Eskisehirspor.
AHMED MUSA (CSKA Moscow): Ahmed Musa’s  ability to frustrate defenders with his blistering pace is one weapon that could come handy for the team in Brazil.

HARUNA LUKMAN (Dynamo Kiev): Despite being in good form, the Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine midfielder has been left out of the Eagles squad since Keshi took charge of the team. Yet he has valuable experience having featured at the last World Cup in South Africa.

NOSA IGIEBOR (Real Betis): The Real Betis of Spain midfielder despite his obvious talent, has struggled to live up to the high expectations placed on him in the Eagles. Injuries have not been too kind to him this season which has seen him drop out of the team after Nations Cup success.

FEGOR OGUDE (Amkar Perm): A member of the Nations Cup winning squad, the combative Amkar Perm of Russia midfielder has not been too impressive in the Eagles set-up but possesses enough grit to earn a spot in the squad.

JOEL OBI (Parma): A regular feature in the Eagles set-up before his injury setback. The talented midfielder is currently back to  fitness with Italian Serie A side, Parma, where he is on loan from Inter Milan.

JOHN OGU (Académica de Coimbra): Another member of the 2013 Confederations Cup squad. Blessed with good height and physique, the  Académica de Coimbra of Portugal player will be battling for a midfield slot in Keshi's team.

SONE ALUKO (Hull City): The Hull City of England winger is back to fitness after some time out due to injury. The fringe Eagles star will face stiff competition for places in the World Cup-bound team despite his qualities.

REUBEN GABRIEL (Waasland-Beveren):  Injury has not helped his cause after making his mark in the Eagles as a home-based player. The midfielder is currently strutting his stuff with Belgian side, Waasland-Beveren.

FORWARDS
EMMANUEL EMENIKE (Fenerbache): Having scored 12 goals in 24 starts for league leaders Fenerbache in the Turkish Super Lig this season, Emenike is the team's first choice striker barring injury and loss of form.

IDEYE BROWN (Dynamo Kiev): The Dynamo Kyiv striker formed a devastating striking trident with Emenike and Moses at South Africa 2013 but has failed to replicate the form which saw him score 17 goals in 27 appearances for Dynamo Kiev last season.

MICHAEL UCHEBO (Cercle Brugge): Another Eagles fringe player who featured in the Mexico friendly. The 24-year-old currently plays for Belgian Pro League club, Cercle Brugge.

SHOLA AMEOBI (Newcastle): The Newcastle forward boosted his World Cup chances in the Eagles with his display and goal in the friendly against Italy. 

EJIKE UZOENY (Rangers): CHAN player of the tournament Ejike Uzoenyi is another who is knocking. It is sad that he did not get a move to Europe on the back of his performances, which were full of maturity and skill.

OSAZE ODEMWINGIE (Stoke City): The experienced but outspoken forward is hoping to stage a return to the Eagles after apologising to Keshi following his much publicised twitter rants which got him into trouble with former club, West Brom, and national team handlers. He is back to good form with Stoke City in England.

CHINEDU OBASI (Schalke 04): A contemporary of Mikel, the injury-prone Eagles star is again back to fitness and form for German Bundesliga side, Schalke 04. His quality and experience should stand him in good stead to stage a deserved return to the Eagles fold.

VICTOR OBINNA (Chievo Verona): One of the old reliables that staged a rare comeback into Keshi's squad and did fairly well. His previous World Cup experience might put him in good stead to make what would most likely be his last hurrah in the Eagles.

VICTOR ANICHEBE (West Brom): The power-playing West Brom of England striker's quality is never in doubt. But it remains to be seen if he is ready to call off his self-imposed exile and return to the Eagles set up ahead of the World Cup.

JOHN UTAKA (Sivasspor): Staged a surprising comeback to the Eagles squad where he was once an undisputed regular starter at some point under Keshi. Currently starring for Turkish Super Lig side, Sivasspor.

IKECHUKWU UCHE (Villareal): His quality is not in doubt and he is currently one of Nigeria's most prolific strikers in Europe. His goals helped Nigeria qualify for the 2010 edition which he missed due to injury. Yet to earn a recall since falling out with Keshi at the Nations Cup.

BABATUNDE MICHAEL (Volyn): The Volyn of Ukraine winger featured at the FIFA Confederations Cup. It remains to be seen if his current club form would earn him a recall to fight for a spot in the World Cup-bound team.

EZEKIEL IMOH (Standard Lierge): Won his first Eagles cap in the Mexico friendly. The talented 20-year old striker is reportedly being courted to play for Belgium instead. He currently plies his trade with Standard Lierge.

UCHE NWOFOR (VVV Venlo):  Currently on loan at SC Heerenveen from VVV Venlo both in Holland, the former youth international is well noted for scoring Nigeria's two goals against South African during the Mandela  Challenge friendly game last year.

JOSEPH AKPALA (Karabukspor): The striker did not help his cause with some wayward finishing at the Confederations Cup. But he could still get a look-in as Keshi seeks to strengthen his forward line.

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