Joseph Yobo (L) leading out Eagles against Liberia last Saturday. Right is Lone Star Captain, George Gebros
By Duro Ikhazuagbe
Despite the 2-2 draw result the Super Eagles recorded in the first leg of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against the Lone Star of Liberia at the weekend in Monrovia, Former Africa Player of the Year, Victor Nosa Ikpeba, has warned that Nigeria can carry on without the inclusion of John Mikel Obi and Osaze Odemwingie.
Apart from the howler from first choice goal keeper, Vincent Enyeama that cost the Eagles maximum points on the trip to Monrovia, the Nigeria was on the verge of winning the two-legged encounter.
But Ikpeba, who was part of the Super Eagles generation now commonly referred to as the golden era of Nigeria’s football, insisted on SuperSport’s Monday Night Football talk show that if Keshi has only a game to winning the ticket to the 2013 AFCON in South Africa, the two England-based players do not deserve to be in the team.
"Nigeria can do without Mikel and Osaze Odemwingie. Nigeria is bigger than the two players and after all, both players were part of the team that played against Guinea last year. And what happened?" asked Ikpeba in apparent reference to Eagles inability to qualify for the last AFCON in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
"Keshi tried to call the players and their response wasn't the best and he had to take a decision. If I am Keshi I don't think I will call them to the team again."
Ikpeba also defended Keshi's building process with the Super Eagles and believes the 2-2 draw in Monrovia guarantees Nigeria a "70 to 80 percent chance" of reaching next year's edition of the AFCON.
However, Keshi, who was reported to have heaped blames for Eagles draw on Vincent Enyeama recanted Tuesday, stressing that the failure to grab maximum points against the Liberians was a collective failure.
“I never at any moment said that Enyeama, who remains our first choice keeper caused us the draw in Liberia and in fact I think that he is one of the best in the world but at times like these, passion rules over reason. But we must not bring individual players into our poor performance. It’s a collective failure to win,” Super Eagles Media Officer, Ben Alaiya quoted Keshi to have said on telephone Tuesday.
The Super Eagles’ supremo promised to produce a new national team that Nigerians at all levels will be proud of before the 2013 AFCON in South Africa.
Before the decisive second leg of the 2013 AFCON qualifier against Liberia in Calabar on October 7, Keshi pledged to give Nigerians the team they will all be proud of.
“We will score goals aplenty, but I understand the apprehension of Nigerians, and what I have always asked for is patience. I need lots of it to succeed,” pleaded the former Togo and Mali gaffer.