This is the second in a 4-part series in which Afrofooty previews Super Eagles players ahead of this month's Afcon qualifier double against Sierra Leone.
Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain): For all his wealth of experience and accomplishments for Nigeria across different levels of national teams, Omeruo still cuts a figure of indecision at times for the Super Eagles. He seems to forever be clinging on to his place in the national team by the skin of his teeth but, like a cat with 9 lives, Omeruo lives on through fierce competition. He was there before Balogun, Ekong, Ajayi and Awaziem. But the Leganes man is not ready to be pushed aside! Leon Balogun (Wigan Athletic, England): Old German soldier never die. Willing to prove Brighton hierarchy wrong, the 31 year old Baale of Berlin is playing the game of his life in Wigan to win critical acclaim and prove that there is life yet in those German/Niger legs than we thought. To be honest, Super Eagles fans never gave up on him. We stood by him like the rock of Gibraltar through his trials and tribulations in Brighton hoping that he will come back to add steel to the back for his fatherland. Balogun has unfinished business in the Super Eagles. Chidozie Awaziem (CD Leganes, Spain): Having struggled somewhat to establish himself in the centre defence of the Super Eagles, Awaziem found a home in the right back position where he shone like a million stars at the Africa Cup of Nations. I still remember the image of Awaziem coming to the defence of Akpeyi against Argentina in the famous 2017 4:2 friendly win as the goalkeeper picked the ball up from outside the 18 yard box! The Leganes man will now have to defend his own rightback position against an existential threat in the way of the new kid on the block, Kingsley Ehizibue .
William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy): It is good to see that Ekong has put the craziness of his rugby tackle against Croatia at the world cup behind to score an own goal against Algeria in the Afcon (oops!). That was a bit harsh of me. For all Ekong fans, I apologise o, before you come out to devour me alive! Ekong has grown in stature from that defender that (according to him) coach Oliseh never believed in (dat thing pain Ekong no be small!). Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy): Perhaps his finest hour in the colours of the Super Ealges was that sublime backheel pass for Ighalo to smash home Nigeria’s only goal against Burundi at the Afcon. I will always respect Aina for not showing bitterness at being dropped for the 2018 world cup. His services to fatherland before and after are very much appreciated. Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany): Not exactly Celestine Babayaro, Not close to Taiye Taiwo. Even Ifeayin Udeze played with more steel. But at least, many will pick him ahead of Juwon Oshaniwa. I think Collins is his own man. It will be unfair to make comparisons. He turns up, gives 100% and always ready when called upon. Can you ask for more?
Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England): I was rather surprised the way Semi was beaten in the air for the first goal Nigeria conceded in a recent qualifier. That will have to be a minor blot in otherwise largely blemishless overall outings for the Super Eagles thus far. You see all those goals he scores in the English Championship, we can do with more of those for the Super Eagles from the Wes Brom man. Kingsley Ehizibue (FC Koln, Germany): If what we have seen from Leon Balogun and Tyrone Ebuehi for the Super Eagles is anything to go back, I guess we ain’t seen nothing yet when it comes to this Kingsley guy. What I have read and heard about him are highly commendable indeed. To be continued….