The Nigeria Football Federation is expected to have submitted a provisional list of 55 players to the Confederation of African Football regarding the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, which kicks off in January.
From that expanded list, head coach Jose Peseiro will select 27 players to represent Nigeria at the competition.
The Super Eagles are three-time champions of the AFCON, and they have been tipped to be among the favourites to go all the way in Ivory Coast.
Soccernet.ng‘s Imhons Erons looks at the players who should be in the Nigerian squad for the continental championship for the Eagles to make a meaningful impact.
The goalkeeping department gives Peseiro the biggest headache.
The Portuguese tactician has finally agreed to search for a better alternative to Francis Uzoho on the eve of the AFCON.
Peseiro appears to have settled for Stanley Nwabali – the 27-year-old Chippa United goalie who has kept seven clean sheets in 13 games.
However, a surer bet is Jonathan Rasheed, who helped IFK Värnamo finish fifth in the Allsvenskan this season, two years after they gained promotion to the Swedish top tier.
The 32-year-old shot-stopper was also the second-best goalkeeper in the recently concluded league campaign.
Amas Obasogie of Bendel Insurance and Doma United’s Osayi Kingdom have impressed in the NPFL. Still, there is insufficient time to convince Peseiro that they are better than Uzoho. Israel-based Adebayo Adeleye will be a great third choice.
Best pick: Jonathan Rasheed, Francis Uzoho, Adebayo Adeleye
Standby: Osayi Kingdom, Stanley Nwabili
Peseiro has snubbed William Troost-Ekong for the last few international engagements despite the Olympic bronze medalist’s impressive displays for Greek side PAOK.
Troost-Ekong’s experience will be priceless in Ivory Coast, as would Kenneth Omeruo, one of the two surviving members of the Nigerian squad that won the AFCON ten years ago.
Semi Ajayi has become a reliable rock in defence for the Super Eagles, and his partnership with Calvin Bassey could thrive at the continental championships.
Best pick: Semi Ajayi, William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo
Standby: Kevin Akpoguma, Chidozie Awaziem
Orlando Pirates defender Olisa Ndah understands African football more than Jordan Torunarigha, and he has been the best-performing Nigerian in South Africa for a while now.
He would be a great understudy for Calvin Bassey, who is looking increasingly more at home in the centre-back role at Fulham and the Super Eagles.
Despite his advancing age, Leon Balogun is still getting the job done for Glasgow Rangers, and it would have been great to see him and Troost-Ekong recreate the Oyibo Wall in Ivory Coast.
Best pick: Olisah Ndah, Calvin Bassey
Standby: Jordan Torunarigha, Leon Balogun
Bright Osayi-Samuel has been excellent for Fenerbahce and the national team since his Super Eagles debut.
Nottingham Forest defender Ola Aina is no longer Nigeria’s best right-back, as that title now belongs to Remo Star’s Sodiq Ismail.
Ismail is defensively astute.
He is the best crosser of the ball in the NPFL, had eight assists last season, and already notched nine this term with half the season still to go. Osimhen would love him.
Best pick: Sodiq Ismail, Bright Osayi-Samuel
Standby: Ola Aina, Tyronne Ebuehi
When Jamilu Collins and Zaidu Sanusi were injured, Boavista’s Bruno Onyemaechi stepped up for the Super Eagles, and he has been incredibly consistent since.
Collins has been a reliable performer for Cardiff City and was in the Championship Team of the Month for November.
It is difficult to edge out Porto’s Zaidu Sanusi from this team, but Collins and Onyemaechi offer everything between defensive solidity and attacking proficiency.
Best pick: Jamilu Collins, Bruno Onyemaechi
Standby: Zaidu Sanusi, Ebube Duru
Wilfred Ndidi is a more rounded midfielder at Leicester City these days, but he remains one of the best defensive midfield dynamos around.
He can tackle, intercept, pass, assist, and even score goals. It would be interesting to see what task Peseiro assigns him in Ivory Coast.
Frank Onyeka is becoming a more relevant element at Brentford, and his growing confidence will help greatly.
Club Brugge’s Raphael Onyedika has a good engine and could be the box-to-box midfielder the Super Eagles have missed since Oghenekaro Etebo.
It is disheartening that Royal Antwerp’s Alhassan Yusuf is yet to make his Super Eagles debut.
Best pick: Wilfred Ndidi, Frank Onyeka, Raphael Onyedika
Standby: Bonke Innocent, Alhassan Yusuf
Alex Iwobi has impressed for Fulham this term as a winger, but with Nigeria, the former Arsenal man will return to the centre of the back.
Nigeria’s number one playmaker has shown he needs help in tough situations, and it is hoped that Southampton’s Joe Aribo will provide that.
Ahmed Musa’s best performance under Peseiro came when he was deployed as a central midfielder against Sao Tome and Principe.
What the Sivasspor’s man has lost in speed, he has gained in intelligence.
Musa can also pick the run of strikers with precision passes, and the captain could be the missing link between the Super Eagles’ boring midfield and the team’s firebrand attack.
Fisayo Dele-Bashiru’s time will come, as would Kelechi Nwakali’s.
Best pick: Alex Iwobi, Joe Aribo, Ahmed Musa
Standby: Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, Kelechi Nwakali
Samuel Chukwueze netted a fabulous goal for AC Milan against Newcastle United in the Champions League to remind many why he is still Nigeria’s number-one right winger.
He is heading to his third AFCON and should be better prepared to rise to the occasion and be the difference-maker for the Super Eagles when needed.
Chidera Ejuke has been excellent for Belgium’s Royal Antwerp. This week against Barcelona, he sent a message to Peseiro reminding the Portuguese tactician why he should be picked ahead of Bayer Leverkusen’s Nathan Tella as Chukwueze’s backup.
Best pick: Chidera Ejuke, Samuel Chukwueze
Standby: Nathan Tella, Peter Olayinka
Moses Simon was Nigeria’s assist king during the qualifiers, and his efficiency out wide makes him the first choice on that left flank.
Ademola Lookman has excelled as a supporting striker at Atalanta. Still, Peseiro will likely deploy him on the wings as the coach looks for creative players who will supply the final ball to his ambitious forwards.
Samuel Kalu is a resurgent man in Switzerland, while Onyekuru has not lost any of his cutting edge in Saudi Arabia.
Best pick: Moses Simon, Ademola Lookman
Standby: Henry Onyekuru, Samuel Kalu
Victor Boniface and Kelechi Iheanacho are tricky on the ball and good goalscorers in their own right.
They also love to give assists, which makes them the perfect players to pair with the best strikers in the squad.
Iheanacho has picked up a knock that has kept him out of Leicester City’s last two matchday squads.
If he, however, fails to recover in time, OGC Nice’s Terem Moffi could step in to take his spot. Moffi’s goals have dried up in recent weeks, though.
Best pick: Victor Boniface, Kelechi Iheanacho
Standby: Terem Moffi, Chuba Akpom
Newly-crowned Africa Football of the Year Victor Osimhen will be the most celebrated star at the AFCON. His hunger, never-say-die spirit, and goals will be crucial for Nigeria as the former champions look to rule Africa again.
The Napoli man got ten goals during the qualifiers, and a repeat of half of that in the tournament proper could propel Nigeria to the final.
Real Sociedad’s Umar Sadiq and Trabzonspor’s Paul Onuachu will be capable deputies. Sadiq brings guile around the box, while Onuachu’s heading ability could decide close encounters.
KAA Gent’s Gift Orban has lost his scoring touch a bit recently, while Cyriel Dessers has been inconsistent for Rangers.
Best pick: Victor Osimhen, Umar Sadiq, Paul Onuachu
Standby: Gift Orban, Cyriel Dessers
The AFCON kicks off on January 13, with Nigeria scheduled to face hosts Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau in the group stage.
NB: Who would you add to or remove from this list? Give your opinions in the comment section below.