The NFF released the list to confront the do or die double header world cup qualifiers against Ghana this week. The first leg away will hold on the 25th of March with the return leg in Abuja scheduled for four days later.
The Nigerian factor will always serve as a shadow cast upon any list released to prosecute Super Eagles matches. The prayer is always for the shadow not to be potent enough to cloud Nigeria’s path to success. This latest provisional list to prosecute the gigantic battle for West African supremacy has its fair share of dubious shadows but it remains a competent squad capable of grabbing the solitary world cup ticket on offer should the team and its coaching crew remain focused, resolute and put to practice the lessons learnt from the recently concluded Afcon. Despite the well documented shortcomings of Maduka Okoye, Daniel Akpeyi and Francis Uzoho, they are capable hands in their own rights if they get adequate cover, recovery and reinforcement from their defensive line. Holding that defensive fort will be Ekong,Omeruo, Ola Aina and versatile Bassey who are all household names and center defenders of repute. In the flanks, Zaidu, Bassey (again), Aina and Shehu should be able to withstand the onslaught of the Ghanaians whilst providing offensive crossing salvos when required. Noteworthy is the fact that a number of our defenders a gracing benches but this in itself is not expected to numb their sharpness in the short term. Nigeria’s midfield continues to be constituted by substance over style. Ndidi, Aribo and Etebo should bring much maturity to the fore to complement the exuberance of Amoo and positionally astute Onyeka. The wings have Chukwueze, Simon, Dennis and Lookman as it looks like the crown jewels department of the Super Eagles. Should Dennis, Lookman and Simon bring their “A” game to the fore and effectively coalesce with the movements and intentions of colleagues around them, then Nigeria could be as formidable a force as any team in African football. Love him or hate him, Odion Ighalo currently remains one of Africa’s most ruthless goals-poachers. A front 4 of Simon, Ighalo, Osihmen and Lookman with Dennis introduced later on should be too hot for any opposition to handle so long as they don’t neglect their defensive duties and responsibilities. Ahmed Musa is a floater. His wealth of experience should help the Super Eagles glide through to victory with his now level headed approach and vision brought on by years of experience. Regardless of the type of formation utilized, if these players can function like a well oiled, well drilled machine, they will be indestructible. They have pace on the wings, precision in center attack, movements and passing range in midfield, world class defensive midfield cover, ability of attackers to funnel back for defensive coordinator, full back movements, center defensive acumen and goalkeeping exposure and awareness. In the likes of Musa, Ighalo, Ekong, Balogun, Akpeyi and Omeruo they have valuable experience whilst Lookman, Okoye, Amoo and Bassey provide injection of youthful exuberance and energy. It is not a list to cause any concerns. If properly managed, motivated and moulded they can bring home the holy grail. Even with the Nigerian factor evident, there still remains no cause for alarm. What will be alarming is if such an elite collection of players fall short of expectations!
FULL SQUAD: Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands) Defenders: Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Calvin Bassey (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Abdullahi Shehu (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal) Midfielders: Frank Onyeka (Brentford FC, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Oghenekaro Etebo (Watford FC, England); Akinkunmi Amoo (FC Copenhagen, Denmark) Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Victor Osimhen (Napoli FC, Italy); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Sadiq Umar (UD Almeria, Spain); Odion Jude Ighalo (Al-Hilal FC, Saudi Arabia); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Emmanuel Dennis (Watford FC, England); Ademola Lookman (Leicester City, England) Standby: Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor FC, Turkey); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin, Germany); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium); Peter Olayinka (SK Slavia Praha, Czech Republic); Ogenyi Onazi (Al-Adalah FC, Saudi Arabia)
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