Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Gazing into Keshi's crystal ball

The Super Eagles have had a relatively modest record defensively in the last two major tournaments that the country has participated in.

Aside the recently concluded Chan, the A team has conceded four goals in six matches at the 2013 Afcon held in South Africa ,and also allowed in six goals in it's three group matches at the Confederations Cup last June in Brazil.

The 2014 Fifa World Cup will be a different ball game entirely as the defence has to be water tight and thoroughly organised if the team hopes to impress and go past the likes of Bosnia-Herzegovina ,who have potent front men like Vedad Ibisevic and Edin Dzeko and the Argentines who are blessed with strikers like Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi.

Stephen Keshi, who was a top defender in his playing days has to fashion out a solid defensive unit that will be able to hold it's own when he tinkers with personnel he feels can do the job for him.
In the second part of our four part series, supersport.com takes a plunge into Keshi's crystal ball as regards dark horses that might get wild card entries into the provisional list when the 'Big Boss' begins the odious task of selecting his calvary that will march when the tournament commences in June.


Defence:

Usual suspects

Kenneth Omerou, Godfrey Oboabona, Elderson Echiejile, Benjamin Francis, Solomon Kwambe, Efe Ambrose, Azubuike Egwuekwe.

Baring any injuries, it is expected that the usual suspects will make a return to the set up. The likes of Godfrey Oboabona, Kenneth Omerou, Efe Ambrose, Elderson Echiejile, Azubuike Egwuekwe will surely make the list, but there are others who have been part of the team before or are on the the fringes, that will look to earn a spot.

9jafooty throws in a few names into the hat that might sneak in into the squad ,just like Chidi Nwanu and Michael Emenalo did during Nigeria's preparation for her maiden appearance at the World Cup in 1994.

Joseph Yobo

pic courtesy fifa.com
Club: Norwich City

Age:33

Caps:93

Ordinarily, Joseph Yobo, whom coach Stephen Keshi has insisted is still his team captain,shouldn't feature here, but a lot has happened in the last 12 months.

The former Standard Liege defender has fallen down the pecking order after he stuttered at the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa. He also failed to make the cut for the Confederations Cup and was also was missing in the run in towards qualification for the World Cup.

Frozen out at Turkish club Fenerbahce, he has secured a winter move to Barclay's Premier League outfit Norwich City, where he hopes to rack in performances that will earn him a recall. His experience will be immense but has to be accompanied by what he does on the pitch.

The jury is out, Yobo will have to convince Keshi he still has what it takes to lead the line in Brazil and only a decent show at his new club will outline that motive.

Leon Balogun

pic courtesy-zimbio.com
Club: Fortuna Dusseldorf

Age:25

Caps: Nil

Nigeria's right back position has been a problem since the exit of Chidi Ordia.albeit a lot of players have played there will little or no success. Yusuf Mohammed and lately Efe Ambrose have had to fill in that spot, but a lot of Nigerians are still not convinced.

Ambrose, for all his endeavor is not a specialized right back. The former Kaduna United man is comfortable at center back where he plays for his Scottish club Celtic, and as a defensive midfielder.

Leon Balogun might just add something different to the squad and his desire to play for Nigeria is an added plus. Born to a Nigerian father and a Germany mother, this 25 year old has played in the Bundesliga and can add more experience to the squad.

He has already pledged his international future to Nigeria in and it's left to see if Stephen Keshi will deem him fit to be one of those to battle for shirts when rallies his troops to camp.

Kenneth Otigba

pic courtesy-zimbio.com

Club: SC Heerenveen

Age: 21

Caps:Nil

Kenneth Otigba might be an unknown quantity in Nigeria but is highly rated in the Eredivisie ( Holland's top division) as one of the top defenders this season.

The young defender has played for Hungary at youth level but like Leon Balogun, has pledged his international future to Nigeria.

Comfortable as a right back where he has played mostly this season for his club, or as a central defender, the former Gyulai Termal FC defender boasts of impressive stats in the dutch league and has already played about 20 matches and has chalked up 5 goals from his defensive position.

Otigba is a central defender,who is also comfortable at right back and can add more quality and steel to the Eagles back line. His goal scoring instinct should also come in handy.
Surely, Keshi will do well to invite this youngster who says the Eagles gaffer is one of his favorites defender of al time to come and sweat for a slot in the team.

Ebenezer Kunle Odunlami

pic courtesy kickoff.com

Club: Sunshine Stars

Age: 23

Caps: 8

Ebenezer Odunlami has come up in leaps and bounds in the last six months and has shown that he can be relied upon when thrown into the deep end. With the departure of club and national teammate Godfrey Oboabona to Europe, Odunlami has held sway at both club and national team level.

His performances at the recent Chan tournament has proved he can mix it with the big boys, as he outshone his more illustrious defensive partner Azubuike Egwuekwe, and was fittingly named in the tournaments all-star team.

The Sunshine Stars defender can bring in much needed competition in the Eagles defence as his all all action and gusty play will add more variety in the defence.

Odunlami will hope that his stellar showing at the 2014 Chan tourney would have done enough to convince coach Stephen Keshi to give him a shot at the main squad.

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