Yesterday, the coach of the Nigerian National team, Jose Vitor Peseiro, released the names of the players representing the country at the forthcoming AFCON tournament held in Ivory Coast next year.
With a few notable omissions and widely unexpected inclusions, Soccernet.ng takes a look at the picks of the Super Eagles head coach to state the positives and the negatives of the players set to do it again next year.
1. Leadership and Experience
The average age of the squad stands at 26.36, and for a fairly young team, the coach’s inclusion of experienced players in the team was vindicated. Ahmed Musa and Kenneth Omeruo were a part of the team that won the 2013 AFCON edition of the tournament, and the leadership of both players will help tutor the younger players in the team.
2. Plethora of attacking options
Victor Osimhen, Victor Boniface, Ademola Lookman, Sadiq Omar, and Kelechi Iheanacho amongst others, show the abundance of attacking threats the Super Eagles pose up front.
Osimhen and Boniface, set to pair up front in Peseiro’s 4-4-2 formation, have been in good goalscoring form for their club side, and if the coach can harness such fine form, the Super Eagles are set to soar high in Ivory Coast.
1. Absence of home-based players
Only one home-based player was included in Jose Peseiro’s squad. Goalkeeper of NPFL Champions Enyimba F.C. and Olorunleke Ojo were the only ones to make the list, with no outfield NPFL player included in the list.
In comparison, the last time Nigeria won the tournament, six home-based players were fielded by the then-Nigerian coach, Stephen Keshi.
The home-based players proved pivotal as Sunday Mba scored the goal that won the tournament in the final, and Geoffrey Oboabana was rock solid at the back alongside 20-year-old Kenneth Omeruo. With the exclusion of outfield home-based players, many Nigerian fans feel the good luck charm that aided the team in 2013 might be off in Ivory Coast next year.
2. The goalkeeping problem persists
Stanley Nwabali, Olorunleke Ojo, and Francis Uzoho were the goalkeepers named by the Portuguese tactician. Nwabali has a cap under his belt. Meanwhile, Ojo has yet to make an appearance for the national team, hinting that Uzoho will most likely be Peseiro’s preferred goal choice at the AFCON tournament.
In recent times, the performances of the Omonia S.C. goalkeeper for the national team have not been great, and his inclusion in the team, with no other recognised goalkeeper set to rival him for the starting berth, has Nigerian football fans worried.
3. The midfield options are thin
The profiles of the midfield players in Peseiro’s team are quite worrisome. Frank Onyeka, Raphael Onyedika, and Wilfred Ndidi are destroyers. Meanwhile, Joe Aribo and Alex Iwobi are attacking midfielders.
The absence of a creative box-to-box profile in the middle of the park puts too much burden on the strikers and the wingers to create chances. It could also mean some midfielders would have to play out of position where they’d be less effective, and an injury to a player would leave the space void.