This afternoon, Eguavoen released the squad to face Guinea Bissau in the last group encounter. If Nigeria wins, Eguavoen will go down the history books as the first coach to guide Nigeria through the group stage of 2 Afcon tournaments.
The players selected for this potential historical encounter are: Uzoho, Ebuehi, Ekong, Ajayi, Collins, Ndidi, Nwakali, Iheanacho, Iwobi, Umar and Ejuke.
For me, this so called fringe squad is an Afcon winning starting 11. Below are my initial observations: Uzoho: with Guinea Bissau expected to throw the kitchen sink at the Super Eagles, it will be an excellent opportunity to see Uzoho’s net-minding credentials and benchmark it against that of Okoye. Ajayi: having lost his place to Akpoguma in the tail end of Rohr’s reign, Ajayi now has the chance to redeem himself with a convincing and compelling performance. Ebuehi: he needs to bring his Serie A and Super Eagles training sessions form to fore today to attempt to knock Excellent Aina into a cocked hat. Collins: with so much mystery shrouding his initial appearance in camp, nothing short of ‘A1’ deliveries and deft defending from him will satisfy Super Eagles fans. Nwakali: finally, his much awaited start in Super Eagles colours (in a meaningful match) is here. He will have to replicate his 2018 performance against Atletico Madrid for many fans to treat him better than a grain of salt. So much is riding on Nwakali’s display today, he better not cock it up. Iwobi: having effectively lost his midfield slot to compatriot Aribo in this tournament, Iwobi will be keen to wrestle the right wing starting position off underwhelming Chukwueze. Sadiq Umar: it is last chance saloon for the Almeria man in this tournament. A tepid performance today may just see him gather dust on the Super Eagles benches for the remainder of the tournament (and perhaps adversely affect his long term Super Eagles status). Ejuke: if he chooses to bite on the ampoules of selflessness, this dashing winger will assist a great many goals in this match and beyond for Nigeria. Coach Eguavoen: though it might seem a balsy move to introduce a whole 8 players in a historically significant potential record setting encounter for him as a Nigeria coach, this will nonetheless reveal whether there is strength in-depth in the Super Eagles. Also, his 4-4-2 (which morphs in 4-2-4 in-game) formation will be put the the ultimate test today by a rampant Guinea Bissau if he persists with this arrangement. We will see whether his gamble for Nwakali to stay deep (while allowing Ndidi to venture forward) will work. Will the same midfield be overrun? Will the chemistry between Ekong and Ajayi hold out and will Sadiq Umar repay his faith with goals? We wait and see. Copyright Notice: unauthorized use of this material is strictly prohibited