As the weekend approaches, Afrofooty sheds the spotlight on Super Eagles eligible players who either set the European Champions League alight with scintillating performances this week or those saving their best for games to come.
The European Champions League threw some fascinating fixtures that weren’t short of excitement, intrigue, bombastic drama and surprises with several Nigerian players right in the thick of the hostilities, flying the Green-White-Green flag to the adoration of many a Super Eagles fan at home and abroad.
Here is how our players got on group by group:
Club Brugge vs Galatasary 0:0 (18 September 2019)
David Okereke 6.5/10: Going into this encounter with 4 goals in 6 league games for Brugge, the stage was set for David to use a goalscoring megaphone to announce himself at Europe's elite competition and a blocked header destined for the back of the net almost wrote his name in the stars .
While the goal didn’t come, 22 year old Okereke – who is one of Nigeria’s many exciting young talents – gave a decent if unspectacular account of himself with 2 blocked shots and 1 shot on target while having 88% passing accuracy with 22 overall touches for the 60 minutes he spent on the pitch.
Verdict: The Lagos-born forward will be expected to test the goalkeeper more in subsequent matches to attract the attention of Rohr and also help his team progress to the next round
Emmanuel Dennis 5.9/10: The general consensus among some Super Eagles fans who watched this match was that Dennis, who spent 73 minutes on the pitch for Brugge, could have done better to dig deep into his bags of tricks to work magic, but there was none on display.
In the second half, the 21 year old showed positioning, pace and power to bomb his way into the 18 yard box but showed poverty in the skills required to bury the chance and put his team ahead as his shot was well saved.
Verdict: This sort of performance will not do his side any world of good in their quest to reach the second round of this competition.
None of the clubs featured any Nigerian player.
Dynamo Zagreb vs Atalanta 4:0 (18 September 2019)
Iyayi Believe Atiemwen: The right winger, who featured for Zagreb in the Champions League qualifying matches, was sadly left on the bench for the duration of this encounter – much to the frustration of many Super Eagles supporters who were hoping to see what this 23 year old can bring
to the Champions League party.
With him watching from the bench, his team mates stunned the football world to produce a result that continues to vibrate TV screens whenever the highlights are watch!
4:0 this one ended in favour of Iyayi’s team.
Verdict: Game time in the Champions League maximised with strong performances will raise Iyayi’s profile.
Bayer Leverkusen vs Lokomotiv Moscow 1:2 (18 September 2019)
Brian Idowu: Used largely in European competitions last season, Idowu will be hoping for more than the paltry 3 minutes he featured in this match that saw his side record an impressive win against Leverkusen of Germany.
The 27 year old Russian-born-Yoruba-man, who was an unused sub in the Super Eagles 2:2 draw against Ukraine, will be hoping to make the squad and play in the friendly against Brazil in October.
Verdict: Idowu needs to be playing more regular football for the benefit of his own career and the enhancement of his national team opportunities
Red Bull vs Genk 6:2 (17 September 2019)
Paul Onuachu : Cometh the hour, cometh the man as the saying goes however with just 5 minutes to go to the end of the match (in normal time) and with Genk already 6 goals down, it would have been laughable to expect any sort of miracles from Onuachu who opened his goal scoring account in the league last week with a delicious trademark header.
The 25 year old giant striker’s overall 10 minutes on the pitch yielded 0 shots on target, 0 shots blocked and 0 goals.
Verdict: Onuachu may have to learn how to make an impact with little time on the pitch as he might not always have the luxury to start matches from the beginning.
Stephen Odey: The 21 year old, who has appeared for Genk in two league games and is yet to break his duck, sat out this match as he was not even included in the match day squad.
Verdict: Stephen will have to prove to his managers in training that he has what it takes to be consider for each and every Champions League match ahead of other options.
Inter Milan vs Slavia Prague 1:1 (17 September 2019)
Peter Olayinka (7.5/10): Now that is what we are talking about! An explosive display from a striker
who would be hoping to get a call up to the national team should his season continue this way for Slavia Prague in Europe and domestically.
Taking the ball from the right wing, 23 year old Olayinka weaved his way into the box 18 to deliver a delicious cut back only to find the ball ricochet back to him near post to run to and blast past the goalkeeper to stun San Siro and be the first and only Nigerian to score a goal in this round of matches.
The 23 year old Ibadan-born striker, who has never played for Nigeria at any level, featured for 85 minutes against Inter Milan having 2 shots on target while achieving 61% success rate in his passes.
Verdict: For all the euphoria that came with his side footed beauty of a goal against Inter Milan, Olayinka will still need to be more ruthless in front of goal if his profile is expected to rise higher to the level of being considered for a national team call up.
Benfica vs RB Leipzig 1:2 (17 September 2019)
Tyrone Ebuehi: What could have seen a Nigerian Wing back locking horns with a Nigerian eligible winger did not material as Tyrone Ebuehi was not included in the match day squad to face Ademola Lookman’s Leipzig due to injury.
Verdict: After last year’s world cup, Ebuehi’s career has been sadly plagued by injuries. Hopefully, he will recover soon enough and put the injuries behind him to continue showcasing his immense qualities.
Ademola Lookman: Is he going to play for Nigeria or not?
Verdict: That question is still in the air but what is certain is that Lookman will hope to get to point where he plays more for Leipzig in the domestic league and in Europe because, even if 21 year old chooses to play for Nigeria, sitting on the bench week in week out will not enhance his chances of national team selections ahead on the likes of Samuel Chukwueze.
Ajax vs Lille 3:0 (17 September 2019)
Victor Osimhen (6.3/10): There would be no fairytale beginning to the Champions League for Osimhen whose blistering start to the domestic season for Lille didn’t materialise against a rampaging Ajax on Tuesday.
Having scored five goals in four league appearances and looking the part to become the Super Eagles No.1 striker after the retirement of China-based Odion Ighalo, the 21 year old had only 1 shot on target and 1 shot blocked in the entirety of the 90 minutes that he spent on the pitch against Ajax (who showed Lille that the Champions League is a different ball game with 3 goals to mark off a convincing victory).
Verdict: The match against Ajax is now in the past, Osimhen remains one for the future with his pace, power and precision in front of goal – even if these weren’t evident in this 3:0 loss.