Ahead of Super Eagle’s opening Group C game against Burkina Faso on Monday OLATAYO ADETOYI profiles the 23 players in whom football fans have placed enormous expectations
VINCENT ENYEAMA: His reputation as a largely reliable goalkeeper has long been established. For a decade, he has been the country’s first choice keeper. He can be said to be tested and proven. This will be his fourth Nations Cup appearances and his experience and diligence can help the Super Eagles lift the trophy.
AUSTINE EJIDE: He is considered the second choice goal keeper next to Vincent Enyeama. He was considered ahead of Enyeama in the warm up match against Cape Verde. Though he sustained an injury in the match, the coaching crew and the doctors however downplayed the severity. He is expected to be fit for Nigeria’s first game.
CHIGOZIE AGBIM: Young and talented, he plies his trade with Enugu Rangers. He is considered one of the best goalkeepers in the Nigerian Premier League. He has a bright future with the team only if he could show some consistency and discipline.
ELDERSON ECHIEJILE: He is strong and very energetic. He has been compared by many to the likes of Celestine Babayaro and Ifeanyi Udeze. He is considered the best left full back Nigeria boasts at present. With his pace and energy, his contribution to the team cannot be overlooked.
JUWON OSHANIWA: Though he is not a household name in the national team, he has been very resourceful and reliable considering his contribution to his club, Asdod FC, Israel. He can equally replicate such talent and tenacity in the Super Eagles especially the left full defence that has been a source of concern for so many soccer fans in the country.
JOSEPH YOBO: A very experienced and energetic defender. He is the captain of the team and has appeared in more Nations Cup than any of his teammates. He has also played in the World Cup and appeared in Champions League with his Turkish club. He has played in one of the best leagues in the world, including the English Premier League with Everton before moving to Turkey where he currently plays for Fenerbache F.C. This will be his sixth Africa Cup of Nations appearances.
EFE AMBROSE: His experience and capacity has been worrisome to many especially the poor form he commanded in the game against Cape Verde where he seemed so jittery. But Coach Stephen Keshi has belief in his ability and he is being considered for the right full back position.
NOSA IGIEBOR: He is very promising, young and a good passer of the ball and can as well hold on to the ball. He is one of the solutions Keshi requires to solve the midfield problem which has been a problematic area for some time in the super Eagles. He can actually impress in the Nations Cup if given the chance. A little patience with the lad is required by Keshi.
JOHN MIKEL OBI: Helped Chelsea win the Champions League and the English F.A Cup last season. He is very strong and experienced and has played at the highest level of football the World Cup. He is a good defensive midfielder and can also be useful if paraded as an attacking midfielder. Though his discipline and dedication to the national team is something of a worry, he has promised to contribute his best to the national team this time around.
OGENYI ONAZI: He is considered the Ali-baba of the national team. Aside being a good player, he has brought the humorous atmosphere which the Super Eagles used to be known for. He has the dressing room power of humour and brings calmness to the team. He is very talented and a good possessor of the ball especially in the centre half of the field. He is very disciplined and a team player with bright future with the national team.
FEGOR OGUDE: He seems to be the solution the midfield of the national team requires. He is very creative and can perform magic with the ball. He brought that creativity during the warm-up game against Cape Verde. Though the first half of the game was not encouraging but his introduction in the second half brought a bit of stability in the match and helped the Super Eagles control the mid-field in a more composed and delightful manner.
GODFREY OBOABONA: Plies his trade with Sunshine of Akure in the Nigeria Premier League. A fantastic captain of his team, he wonderfully well in the home front. He is able to replicate his fantastic form even for the Super Eagles. His inclusion in the game against Spartak Rotterdam was a successful one. He has proved that he can make the difference for the national team. He is one of the young players to watch out for in this tournament
OBIORA NWANKWO: His height gives him an additional advantage in the middle of the pack and he is very energetic and skillful. He is able to hold his ground and compete fully for a space in the Super Eagles’ midfield. His presence and height bring to mind Kanu Nwankwo. He has a point to prove in Keshi’s team.
KENNETH OMERUO: Though unknown to opponents and not a household name in the home front, he is capable of proving his worth to the whole of Africa at the Nations Cup. He can be a good obstacle to his opponent as well as a thorn in the flesh of attackers. His presence in the team has brought a good sigh of relief to the team.
REUBEN GABRIEL: Helped Kano Pillars win the Nigeria Premier League last season. He is consistent and can rise up to any challenge when the occasion demands. Keshi’s decision to include him in the team is a welcome development and not a fluke either. His combinations with John Obi Mikel can definitely get the job done and supply the necessary passes required in the mid field.
AZUBUIKWE EGWUKWE: A well known player to followers of the Nigeria Premier League. His name rings bell in the camp of Warri Wolves as he is almost indispensable to his team. He is very brave and fearless. A prolific defender, inclusion in the team is well earned. Promises to be very useful in the Super Eagles defence as his talent is hugely essential.
AHMED MUSA: He is young and talented. A prominent winger who can deliver the most needed crosses that strikers require. With his wealth of experience, pace and skills, his inclusion in the team is an added advantage. If properly utilised, he could be the messiah the Super Eagles need to get the job done in South Africa. A professional with passion and dedication to his country.
VICTOR MOSES: He is a very strong, energetic and versatile player and his mode of attack from the wing is very delightful. He is very creative and can hold on to the ball very well. He is actually one of the biggest threats the Super Eagle can parade at present. With his wealth of experience for a big club side as Chelsea, his presence is a big plus for the team in the Nations Cup. He can perform the magic for Keshi if he can properly maximize his tactics and utilize the young lad in his rightful position.
EMMANUEL EMENIKE: A very speedy striker. He brings to mind the likes of Obafemi Martins during his days in the national team. Emenike is very sharp and a good shooter of the ball. He has helped spartak Moscow in a countless number of occasions. He should be able to replicate such form and professionalism in the Super Eagles. Also an added advantage to the team and can also perform at the highest level. He has also played in one of the best leagues in the world. He is one of the team competing for European glory for his club in Russia. An additional asset to the Super Eagles attack.
IKECHUKWU UCHE: He is not strange to the soccer loving fans in Nigeria. His ability has been tested and proven severally. He has rescued the Nigerian team on several occasions. He delivers mostly when his service is required. This Nations Cup should not be an exception. His presence serves as a boost to the national team. He can serve as a dangerous weapon against any opponent and a terror to the defence of any team. Ikechukwu is a very dynamic player who can equally wreck havoc on any team.
BROWN IDEYE: Another prolific striker the Super Eagles boasts. With his experience, he can be the breakthrough the super eagle require in South Africa to shock the whole of Africa. He is a good shooter of the ball and very versatile in front of goal. He can perform the magic if properly utilized.
SUNDAY MBA: One of the best players in the home front. He can be the new wonder boy of Super Eagles especially as he is unknown to most of his opponents. He can pull a surprise in the tournament and create problem for any team he comes across. A very good inclusion by Keshi.
EJIKE UZOENYI: Possesses the ability to hold on to the ball and can spring up a surprise when least expected. A prolific scorer and one of the best strikers in the Nigerian league at present. With his compatriots from the home front, he can also serve as the unveiling of the tournament if given the opportunity to prove his worth. All he requires from Keshi is instruction and he will get the job done for the Eagles.