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Football | Super Eagles

Getting into Keshi’s mind



Head coach of the Nigerian national team, Stephen Keshi shocked millions of football fans when he made public his provisional list for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa on Friday, December 21.

The first surprise from the ‘Big Boss’ was the date the list was released. Keshi had declared earlier that the list would be announced on Christmas day.

On Friday evening however, Keshi announced a 32-man list comprising of 14 players from the Nigeria Premier League and 18 overseas-based professionals.

Surprise exclusions

Osaze Odemwingie has notched up nine goals in 55 appearances for Nigeria but was left out. Keshi had revealed exclusively to supersport.com on November 2 that the West Bromwich Albion man had made some fascinating comments about his international future.

“I spoke to Osaze before the (2013 Africa nations Cup qualifier against) Liberia (on October 13) and he told me that he had decided not to play for Nigeria anymore.

“Osaze told me that he has no problems with me as a person and that he took his decision even before I assumed position as national team coach.

“He said he was unhappy at how he was treated in the past in the national team. He explained that prior to Nigeria’s participation at the 2010 Fifa World Cup, he played in all the qualifying games but was dropped at the finals.

“He said he was angry at the treatment meted out to him but did not discuss it with anyone. I told him that was not the best way to handle issues and that if he had already decided not to play for the national team, he should have opened up to me when I invited him to play,” Keshi said.

Odemwingie subsequently declared that he was still available for selection at international level but the writing was already on the wall.

The 31-year-old, who has scored four goals for West Bromwhich Albion this season, was however left out of Keshi’s list to the surprise of many.

Kasimpasa midfielder, Kalu Uche was another player touted to be part of Nigeria’s team at the 2013 Afcon but he surprisingly failed to make the cut despite scoring nine goals in the Turkish Super Lig this season.

Levante’s Obafemi Martins has also proved to be a huge arrival in La Liga this season. The ‘weapon of mass destruction’ is his club’s top scorer in the league this season but left out of the squad.

The curious case of Rabiu and Shittu

Once touted as the ‘future Jay jay Okocha,’ Rabiu Ibrahim has spectacularly failed to achieve his potentials and has yet to secure a place as a first-team player at Scottish Premier League (SPL) club, Celtic following his move from Eredivisie side, PSV in the summer.

Many have questioned the inclusion of Rabiu who has yet to earn a senior cap for Nigeria or prove himself in the big European stage.

The inclusion of big defender, Danny Shittu was perhaps even more stunning.

Shittu, who has not played for the Super Eagles in over two years, is however having a decent time in the English Championship where he has made 13 appearances for Millwall who currently sit in 7th place on the log.

Big decision

Keshi must now break the hearts of nine players who will be dropped as Nigeria can only go to the 2013 Afcon with 23 players.

So who will drop out? Let’s attempt to read Keshi’s mind, a task which is as straightforward as sneaking a snowball into a burning hot furnace.

Goalkeepers

Vincent Enyeama (Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel); Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheba, Israel); Chigozie Agbim (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria); Daniel Akpeyi (Heartland FC, Nigeria)

Keshi should have an easy decision to make here. Three goalkeepers will likely make the list and it hardly requires a crystal ball to know how the fall guy is.

The major decision for Keshi will be who will start games at the tournament.

Vincent Enyeama has been inconsistent in recent matches while Austin Ejide produced a heartwarming display between the sticks in Nigeria’s last international against Venezuela.

Verdict: Daniel Akpeyi will not make the cut.
Defenders

Elderson Echiejile (FC Braga, Portugal); Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC, Israel); Benjamin Francis (Heartland FC, Nigeria); Joseph Yobo (Fenerbahce, Turkey); Efe Ambrose (Celtic FC, Scotland); Solomon Kwambe (Sunshine Stars, Nigeria); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves, Nigeria); Danny Shittu (Millwall FC, England); Kenneth Omeruo (ADO Den Haag, Netherlands); Godfrey Oboabona (Sunshine Stars, Nigeria)

Echiejile is no longer first-choice at Braga but with the absence of Taye Taiwo in the squad, it will take a brave man to bet against the 24-year-old making the squad.

The inclusion of Shittu raises eyebrows but the ‘Big Boss’ obviously did not just include the Millwall man to make up the numbers.

It will be a surprise if Keshi picks more than 7 players from the pool.

Verdict: Oshaniwa, Francis and Kwambe will find this a step too steep as they get the chop.

Midfielders

John Obi Mikel (Chelsea FC, England); Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis, Spain); Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio, Italy); Raheem Lawal (Adana Demirspor, Turkey); Obiora Nwankwo (Calcio Padova, Italy); Fegor Ogude (Valerenga FC, Norway); Reuben Gabriel (Kano Pillars, Nigeria); Rabiu Ibrahim (Celtic FC, Scotland)

If Reuben Gabriel effectively shakes off his injury problems; he will be on the plane to South Africa. Failure to do that will see Lawal and Rabiu snapping at his heels.

Verdict: Rabiu and Lawal will not make the squad to South Africa.
Forwards

Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Emmanuel Emenike (Spartak Moscow, Russia); Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kyiv, Ukraine); Victor Moses (Chelsea FC, England); Uche Kalu (Rizespor, Turkey); Bright Dike (Portland Timbers, USA); Shola Ameobi (Newcastle FC, England); Ikechukwu Uche (Villarreal FC, Spain); Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria); Sunday Mba (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria)

The inclusion of Bright Dike who has just one cap is a surprise but even the MLS star would be shocked if he eventually makes the final squad.

Kalu, Dike and Mba have done well to have come this far and the journey should end for the trio when the final squad is announced.

Likely 23
Goalkeepers

Vincent Enyeama (Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel); Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheba, Israel); Chigozie Agbim (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria)

Defenders

Elderson Echiejile (FC Braga, Portugal); Joseph Yobo (Fenerbahce, Turkey); Efe Ambrose (Celtic FC, Scotland); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves, Nigeria); Danny Shittu (Millwall FC, England); Kenneth Omeruo (ADO Den Haag, Netherlands); Godfrey Oboabona (Sunshine Stars, Nigeria)

Midfielders

John Obi Mikel (Chelsea FC, England); Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis, Spain); Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio, Italy); Obiora Nwankwo (Calcio Padova, Italy); Fegor Ogude (Valerenga FC, Norway); Reuben Gabriel (Kano Pillars, Nigeria)

Forwards

Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Emmanuel Emenike (Spartak Moscow, Russia); Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kyiv, Ukraine); Victor Moses (Chelsea FC, England); Shola Ameobi (Newcastle FC, England); Ikechukwu Uche (Villarreal FC, Spain); Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria)

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