It is safe to say that the recently released Super Eagles squad to face familiar foes Algeria in a high profile friendly hasn't particularly lit up the box office of public opinion.
Having failed to qualify for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, the first to take place near Christmas and in the Middle East , Nigeria now shift their focus towards building for the future with a string of friendly matches - one of which will be against the Fennec Foxes of Algeria on the 27 of September in the 24k capacity Oran Olympic stadium in Algeria.
I had expected a squad that would offer a glimpse into the future of the Super Eagles but what we have is retention of the status quo. Many fans continue to speculate that coach Peseiro is being influenced in squad selections but no concrete evidence of this has emerged.
That said, the inclusion of players struggling for game-time ahead of others inundated with plentiful time on the pitch of club football raises the eyebrow. But in truth, no Super Eagles list in the history of Nigerian football has won universal fans-approval - we just always have to take it or leave it.
That said, this Super Eagles squadron selected to conquer Algeria for the third time of asking since 2019 does have its issues outside those players that are excluded.
In unpacking this we can deduce the following:
– 67% of the three goalkeepers are fully paid up members of their clubs' benchwarmers association. The only goalkeeper seeing healthy game-time (Adebayo Adeleye) is untested and unproven in international football. Other available goalkeepers are either homebased or playing in average-to-mediocre leagues. Nigeria needs to start producing more credible goalkeepers.
– The centre back department is a collection of well established error-prone defenders. Ekong, Omeruo and Awaziem have been fully inducted into the Hall of Fame of Potential Calamity Performers.
That said, the inclusion of Akpoguma and Bassey does offer mild reassurance as they have been known to moonlight in that department.
– Only a meagre 25% of the midfield make up consists of a fresh face. This department has arguably been a sore thumb of the Super Eagles in recent times with a scarcity of creative, cunning, crafty and janus-faced options. Iwobi and Ndidi have been the trailblazers for quite some time and their absences often felt.
Onyeka hasn't particularly won over doubters (I like him though) and uninvited Aribo hasn't particularly grasped the nettle for the Super Eagles in that department.
Nigeria's midfield needs an overhaul.
– A whole 40% of the invited strikers are yet to register a single league goal across a total of 21 games this season. These are Musa, Chukwueze, Dessers and Ejuke.
A total of 15 goals across 61 league games from all the invited strikers return a poor 24% goals conversation data. The likes of Moffi and Simon have to be applauded though as they contributed 6 and 3 league goals respectively across 13 league games between them (a joint conversation rate of a healthy 69%).
In totality, very few teams will be scared of a team of strikers with a 24% goals conversion rate and a goals to games ratio of 1:4.
But in all I remain quite excited about the list.
It will be great to see Adeleye given game time. I would like to see Akpoguma and Bassey paired in centre defence with Onyedika hopefully making his debut in midfield.
Onyekuru has much to prove and he remains a bundle of talent while Moffi is on course to start establishing himself as a true quality centre forward for club and country.
If properly primed with the compelling cutting edge rehearsed routine from Peseiro and proper motivation from the NFF, this same group of players have it in them to restore some pride for the Super Eagles confraternity against Algeria in this coming friendly.
Okoye, Uzoho, Adeleye
Troost-Ekong, Ozornwafor, Omeruo, Akpoguma, Awaziem, Aina, Sanusi, Bassey
Ndidi, Iwobi, Onyedika, Onyeka
Musa, Simon, Iheanacho, Chukwueze, Lookman, Onyekuru, Dessers, Moffi, Ejuke, Awoniyi
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