Thrown straight into the den, Calvin Bassey got a shocking start against Ghana in a crucial World Cup qualifying game.
Bassey started in front of more than 60,000 vociferous Nigerians, with a World Cup ticket at stake, in a nation where football is seen as just one of those things that is still capable of making many happy. Any thing other than victory on the day will see obvious culprits ridden apart.
The stakes were high, the odds were difficult and everyone involved that evening, especially the new faces were always going to have their hands full.
Bassey was shaky all game. While he showed some moments of confidence, his indecision was clear for all to see.
The Rangers defender however can’t be ignored or thrown away. On paper, he’s arguably Nigeria’s most in-form defender in Europe. With the Scottish champions, he’s shown a great ability and has steadily grown into the team.
Another advantage with the 22-year old defender is his ability to play as a left back or as a left centre back. While the pace of Ghanaian attackers were a threat to him, his solid build and fast recovery helped him on occasions.
He’s been getting rave reviews in the Scottish league and in the Europa League this season and is looking potentially like a player Nigeria must trust moving forward.
For seven years now, Nigeria has played with the Oyinbo wall of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong and it’s been mixtures of good and bad. The central defenders have shown they can be trusted in some games and have struggled in others.
As both players near points in their careers where replacements are of utmost importance, the Super Eagles must fill Bassey in gradually. He holds great promise considering his age and offers the team a variety of solutions.
With more experience in the national shirt playing on the continent, the player will get down better to business, after all it’s a phase many pass through in the team.
Bassey has shown specific qualities, especially his physicality, and that means if better-prepared and with more experience, he can be an important player for the Super Eagles.
The disappointment of missing out on the World Cup will linger for long but the Super Eagles don’t have the luxury of time to brood. Solutions and focus must be placed on the future and the invitation of players who can do the job.
Bassey is young and his strengths should be used to Nigeria’s advantage, especially at a period when the Super Eagles need an instant response, and that will only be by qualifying, going far and probably winning the 2023 AFCON.