John Obi Mikel
1996 African Cup of Nations winner and former Bafana Bafana midfielder Eric Tinkler does not feel Nigeria’s star player John Mikel Obi is ‘technically gifted’ and able to lead his country to the 2013 AFCON title.
Still, despite the fact that Tinkler is not fully convinced of Mikel Obi, he does believe that Stephen Keshi is spoilt for choice and the Super Eagles are capable of causing some problems at the continental showpiece.
“One thing about the Nigerians is that they are not spoilt for choice and have players all over the world,” explains the current Orlando Pirates assistant coach.
“In attack it is a headache for the coach because there are so many players to choose from. So it is very important that the coach studies the opponents well and knows who to pick on the day.
“In midfield I am aware that Mikel Obi is seen as Nigeria’s leading player and star right now. But he’s not really a technically gifted midfielder. He is very good, make no mistake, but I believe he is not a Jay Jay Okocha,”
Jay Jay Okocha played for the Super Eagles 73 times and scored 14 goals.
In his time as Nigerian international he also helped lead his country to the 1994 AFCON title and probably would have inspired them to repeat the feat in 1996 had the nation not pulled out of the tournament for political reasons.
As a famous saying in Nigeria goes, ‘he was so good they named him twice’.
But while Okocha played a more of an attacking and creative role, Tinkler sees Mikel Obi playing more defensively.
“For me, that is where I see him (Mikel Obi) playing, which also takes the pressure off his shoulders to be both the defensive player he is at Chelsea, and try to make everything happen for his country,” added Tinkler.
In conclusion, Tinkler feels Nigeria’s first game of tournament is crucial: “They have underperformed for a while now though, but they have a decent group. Playing against Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Zambia means they have a chance. Their opening game against Burkina Faso is very key.”
Nigeria is in Group C at AFCON 2013 along with Zambia, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia.
They are expected to qualify at the top of their group with their first fixture scheduled for January 21st against Burkina Faso.