It has been a near-perfect week for Nigerian football. The home-based Eagles earned a spot in the next qualifying round of the CHAN series. They battled to a goalless draw in Ouagadougou after whipping the Burkina babes 2-0 in Port Harcourt.
Super Eagles handler, Sunday Oliseh, survived a bout of flu and then extended surprise invitations to Obafemi Martins and Kelechi Iheanacho. And the Golden Eaglets are having a swell time in Chile.
Let’s take a look at 5 things that stood out in the week.
1. A player’s form can make Oliseh bend over
Out of nowhere came Obafemi Martins and Kelechi Iheanacho. The former Inter Milan man last played for the national team two years ago. It seemed the moment he left Europe, the handlers of the Super Eagles ruled his name out of eligibility to wear the green and white. No matter the number of goals he scored or the awards he claimed, it appeared he was never convincing enough. Until now.
For Iheanacho, Oliseh had apparently made up his mind that the lad would best fit in with the Dream Team despite his undisputed talent. But after a night of pure class and quality that witnessed the youngster shone for his club, Oliseh was finally convinced that the Man City wizkid was ready for the senior side.
It’s been coming clearer that big names or big bucks don’t impress Oliseh, you want to make his team, just buckle up for your club.
2. Enyimba are champions in waiting
Kano Pillars have won the Nigeria Premier Football League three consecutive years and Warri Wolves before them. But the Aba Elephants are not the type of side that go five seasons without the league title. The most successful club ever in Nigeria however have gone about regaining their lost honours in remarkable ways.
They have won more matches, gained more points and lost the fewest number of games this season. At 65 points and with only three games to the end of the season, the Aba Elephants are odds on favourites to be champions.
3. Odion Ighalo is Nigeria’s closest to C Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo is the finest footballer in the world and a consummate goalscorer. Not many players get to score 40 to 50 goals a year, unless you are Lionel Messi of course. The next set of super stars, Neymar, Suarez, Cavani etc all can get 20 – 30 goals yearly. Ighalo’s record this past season has been closer than most to that.
He is the only Nigerian striker in Europe who carries a genuine goal threat. He has continued the scoring feat that ravaged the Championships last season in the EPL. 7 goals in 11 matches may not be at Ronaldo’s level just yet but it’s way better than the best Giroud, Rooney, Sanchez or Benteke can boast of this season.
4. The Golden Eaglets is Nigeria’s greatest pride
Nigerians love the Super Eagles and the Super Falcons. They have won some great battles and have had their glory days. Even the Dream Team left us with the golden memories of the 1996 Olympics. Yet not one of these sides has brought more glories and pride to the country than the Golden Eaglets.
Two African championships and four world titles make them the average Nigerian’s darling team of all times. They recently mauled Australia’s youth side 6-0 in Chile and have been largely impressive so far. Once again in the quarter-finals of theFIFA U-17 World Cupwhich they won last time, theEmmanuel Amuneke-tutored side have a chance at making history again.
5. Victor Moses did not make Swaziland cut
The on loan Chelsea forward was ominously omitted from Oliseh’s list to prosecute the game against Swaziland. Rumour has it that the reason the West Ham winger was dropped was for failing to appear in Nigeria’s friendly games played last month against Congo and Cameroon.
Evidently, Moses doesn’t like featuring in friendly games. If it isn’t a key tie, he is not in. His previous injury record makes that understandable. The AFCON winner is one of the country’s finest talents in Europe and it would be impudent to not be able to count on him at a time when he’s playing his best football. Oliseh would do well to manage his situation without necessarily appearing to be biased.