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Will Taiwo Awoniyi Be Relevant To Nigeria's 2023 Afcon Ambitions?

It might yet be the time for strikers like Taiwo Awoniyi to shine. Despite the disappointment of missing out at the 2022 World Cup, this generation of Super Eagles strikers nonetheless have meaty encounters to look forward to imminently. First is the 2023 Afcon qualifiers that has already started and will run until September this year. Then we have a number of high profile friendlies leading up to the Afcon itself in July next year in Ivory Coast. And then shortly after, the preliminary rounds of the 2026 world cup qualifiers will commence. Nigeria is currently a wounded animal. But wounds do heal. We missed 2 afcons consecutively only to bounce back stronger with the 2018 world cup participation (against all odds) and 3rd place in the 2019 Afcon. This 2022 world cup hiatus represents an unfortunate dip. It will now be up to the likes of Taiwo Awoniyi to help claw Nigeria out of this transient quagmire. It will be truly fascinating to see what the new improved Super Eagles strike force will look like once Nigeria’s Afcon qualifiers resumes in a few months time. Which coach will the NFF engage and what philosophy will he introduced. Eguavoen tried to re-introduce vintage 4-4-2 formation with emphasis on wing play and a mixture of high and low balls with catastrophic effect. Iheanacho and Awoniyi combo wasn’t entirely memorable and Iheanacho’s combo with Osihmen against Ghana yeiled no fruits. Sadiq Umar never really came to his own. Rohr’s 3-5-2 was not universally popular, though I liked it, but his 4-2-3-1 found fame and success more so in his early days. Ighalo was the focal point and he found fame, fortune and infamy in equal measures. Taiwo Awoniyi sped with purpose from the left before cutting in on his right to dislodge a decent low shot that the keeper gathered. Before that, he had intercepted a wretched excuse of a back pass before caressing home deep inside the 18 yard box for his 17th goal for Union Berlin this season which is a club record. Such performances consistently should make him a target of any future coach aiming to revive the fortunes of the Super Eagles. The prospects are there, they just need to be harnessed properly. Keshi often adopted for 4-3-3 with Brown Ideye, Ike Uche and Victor Moses up front against Burkina Faso for example. By far Emenike was a runaway success with memorable support from Ideye, Musa, Victor Moses and Odewingie. Thinking ahead of what the new look Super Eagles strike force will look like for this year’s Afcon qualifiers (and beyond) is an interesting exercise. But, as noted, it will depend on the coach engaged. Who knows, it might even be Paul Onuachu’s time to shine. Coaches like Harry Redknapp, Bernd Storck, Sam Allardyce, Tony Pulis or Rafa Bernitez will definitely court and get the best out of a player like Onuachu with their route one options. In fact, under this breed of coaches, Onuachu will always be the first name on the list and could even start some matches ahead of some more familiar names. The fact of the matter is that the tools are there.

Whatever style of play the future Super Eagles coach employes, so long as the tactical sagacity, Nigeria has ample strikers to get the job done. The coach only has to work with the players to interpret his methods in a manner that will navigate the Super Eagles back to greatness.

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