Monday, July 14, 2014

Nigeria's next generation (Part two)

Out of the 23 players that made Nigeria's squad to the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil, only four were present at the last edition in South Africa in 2010.

Team captain Joseph Yobo, goalkeepers Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide, and Peter Odemwingie were the only survivors from the first round exit in South Africa, as Nigeria started rebuilding after the exit of the Swede Lars Lagerback.

When Stephen Keshi took up the reins, many Nigerians were not sure of what to expect, but the 'Big Boss' went about his business quietly, chopping and changing while introducing some green horns into the team.

Those green horns formed the core of Nigeria's team to the 2014 Fifa World Cup, as the likes of Ogenyi Onazi, Godfrey Oboabona, Juwon Oshaniwa, Kenneth Omeruo, who were once unheralded, have become an integral part of the Super Eagles set up.

With the Olympics in Rio de Janiero in 2016 on the horizon and the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia in four years, an exciting band of youngsters might emerge and stake claims for shirts in the Super Eagles, just like a certain Bartholomew Ogbeche did in 2002.

In continuation with our next generation series, supersport.com takes a look at some of the emerging youngsters who might be the shining lights of the Super Eagles in a couple of years as Nigeria try to build on the success of Keshi's reign and the gains of the 2014 World Cup.

Godswill Elohor Ekpolo
Age:19
Club Barcelona
Position: Defender ( Right back)



Since the departure of Chidi Odiah from the national team, Nigeria have not had a cultured right full back to fill his shoes. Yusuf Mohammed, Solomon Kwambe and to a greater extent Efe Ambrose, have been drafted to fill in that position.

Despite the Celtic player doing admirably well, he is not a full back and certainly does not play there for his club side. Ekpolo might just be the man to solve that problematic area.


Ekpolo, was the vice captain of the 2014 Uefa Youth Champions League winning team with Barcelona's Juvenile A team and scored crucial goals on their way to beating Benfica in the final which prompted the Barcelona hierarchy to promote him to Barcelona's team B.

Blessed with pace, the full back who was nourished at the famous La Masia Academy, says he models his game after Brazilian full back Dani Alves, whom he has already trained with in the Barcelona first team. He will surely be a quality addition to the Super Eagles in the near future.


Mikel Agu
Age:20
Club: FC Porto (Portugal)
Position: Defensive midfielder



One of Nigeria's star in the making, 20-year-old Agu has come through the Porto youth ranks and was promoted to the first team for the 2013/14 season where he made two appearances.

A ball winning midfielder, he is also a good tackler and has a lot of energy to burn. Agu might not be known in Nigerian circles but he is highly rated by Porto whom had to go through a purple patch before finally securing his signature.

Though currently injured, he is tipped to play a more prominent part in Porto's 2014/15 campaign with the eminent departure of first choice defensive midfielder, Fernando, to the English Premier League.


Kelechi Iheanacho
Age: 18
Club: Manchester City
Position: Striker



Kelechi Iheanacho is one of the biggest talent to come out of Nigeria of recent and he proved his mettle by helping Nigeria win the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in the UAE in 2013 where he picked up the MVP award with impressive displays and a goal haul of six.

Snapped up by English giants Manchester City after the tournament, there has been fears in some quarters that the youngster has taken a wrong career route by signing for English champions.
















Blessed with bullet-like shots in his preferred left foot, Iheanacho is also good at creating goals as much as scoring them himself, and has even played much more deeper than his usual striking role especially with the present Flying Eagles squad that comprises a lot of his contemporaries from the Eaglets class of 2013.

With Garba Manu, his coach who nurtured the former Taye Academy product, holding the reins in the Flying Eagles, it is expected that Iheanacho will be carefully guided and given another platform to showcase his skills, if Nigeria qualify for the next Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand in 2015.


Christian Pyagbara
Age:19
Club: Sharks FC (Nigeria)
Position: Attacker/Winger


One of the brightest young talents still playing in the Glo Premier League in Nigeria, Pyagbara is a discovery of grassroots football and is tipped for greater things as his potentials surely attest to that.

Pyagbara has already been capped at youth and full international levels having made the bronze winning team to the Chan held in South Africa earlier this year, as well as grabbing the headlines in the league, winning the League Bloggers Awards (LBA) for the most outstanding player in March.


With plenty pace to burn, he can play either as a support striker and from the wings as shown by his versatility in the Flying Eagles and for the Chan 2013 team.


Great things are expected from the player and if his development goes well, it will not be out of place to tip him to be a big star for the Super Eagles very soon.


Kingsley Madu
Age:19
Club: AS Trecin (Slovakia)
Position: Defender (Left back)





Nigeria has always been blessed with quality left backs and exciting youngster Kingsley Madu, will look to continue that trend for Nigeria into the future. Madu, who now plays for Slovakian side AS Trecin, was plucked from Glo Premier League side El-Kanemi Warriors after his impressive displays at the 2013 Under-20 World Cup in Turkey with the Flying Eagles.

He has very good technique and says he models his game after Barcelona's Jordi Alba whom he admires greatly. Madu was one of the standout performers for Trecin though he joined up halfway into last season and helped them to a second place finish in the Slovakian top flight.



Madu, alongside another prospect Moses Simon will feature in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League as they look to bolster their growing reputation as one of Nigeria's emerging stars.

Kevin Akpoguma
Age:19
Club: 1899 Hoffenheim (Germany)
Position : Defender ( Centre back/Right back)


Akpoguma is a German-born Nigerian, who came through the ranks at Karlsruher SC but moved to Bundesliga side, Hoffenheim last season where he made just a single appearance on the bench. A lot is expected from him in the 2014/15 season as Hoffenheim will look to get back to challenging for the Bundesliga title again.

The 6'3 defender, who is just 19, is one of the hottest young prospects in the Bundesliga and has played for Germany at virtually all junior levels, but is still open to the chance to play for Nigeria. The Nigeria Football Federation will do well not to lose the promising defender like it did Patrick Omowoyela a few years back.




He is primarily a centre-back who can also play at right back. Just like another German-born Nigerian Leon Balogun, Akpoguma will be a good addition to the pool of Nigerian talent, and with the Olympics around the corner, this might just be the right time to blood in the talented youngster.


Dele Alampasu
Age: 17
Club :RC Genk (Belgium)
Position: Goalkeeper




Winner of the golden gloves at the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in the UAE last year, Alampasu leads a new breed of Nigerian goalkeepers that includes Sebastian Osigwe (who was profiled in the first part of this series), Emmanuel Daniel and Joshua Enaholo and John Felagha.

With the eminent departure of Vincent Enyeama from the international scene, Alampasu is one of the candidates that will seek to be the crown prince of Nigerian goalkeepers to provide cover for Enyeama as well as put Austin Ejide in the shades.

Standing at 1.99 metres, he has the height and composure to be Nigeria's long-term custodian between the sticks considering his mentor Enyeama was also a starry eyed youngster 12 years ago at Japan/Korea 2002, where he played in the last group game against England and pulled off one of the saves of the tournament.



Alampasu, already has international experience after winning the Under-17 World Cup with Nigeria and was also part of the Super Eagles to the 2013 Chan in South Africa, where he must have picked up valuable tips from senior goalkeepers like Daniel Akpeyi and Chigozie Agbim. It will be hoped that he continues to progress as the years roll by and make the expected step up into the big time.

Success Isaac
Age:18
Club: Udinese (Italy)
Position: Striker



Isaac, just like Alamapasu was a World Cup winner at the Under-17 World Cup in the UAE in 2013 and will look to fulfill his potential after making two appearances on the bench for Granada CF in La Liga last season including the surprise win over Barcelona.

A powerful striker in the mould of Emmanuel Emenike, he has pace to burn and his positional sense and composure in the penalty area belies his young age.

He was the poster boy of the Under-17 team at the 2013 event in the UAE before injury cut short his participation in the tourney, but that was before he chalked up two goals in the first two games against Mexico and Sweden.

He spent the better part of last season at La Liga side, Granada, on loan from Serie A side, Udinese, where he has returned after his loan expired. It is left to see where he will continue his football development when the new season starts.

Isaac is highly rated in Nigerian circles and his development will be monitored hence he goes the way of other heralded youngers like Chrisantus Macaulay, Ganiyu Oseni and Emmanuel Sani, who despite their talent, have not been able to fulfill their potential.


Abubakar Aliyu Ibrahim
Age:19
Club:Nasarawa United
Position: Attacking midfielder/Winger


One of the most improved players in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) over the last year. The youngster, who only made his professional debut in Nigeria's top flight was plucked by Nasarawa United from the famous Aminci Academy in Jos which has produced the likes of CSKA Moscow's and Super Eagles winger Ahmed Moses and Moses Simon.

He is a tricky midfielder who is usually deployed to the flanks because of his pace and mobility is one of the shining lights of Nigeria's domestic scene and he is tipped fr great things in the future.


Ibrahim has already been capped at full international level after he made Keshi's team to the 2013 Chan tournament in South Africa where Nigeria picked up the bronze and was among the goals in Nigeria's miraculous comeback against Morocco.

 pics courtesy -ShengolPix, BackPage pix, Getty Images, bundesliga.de, supersport.com, trecin.sk, Aikhoje Ojeikere, fifa.com, Andrew Randa

1 comment:

  1. This is a lethal part, awesome pool of talents. I love how it has so many defenders, especially defenders trained outside the country and at very young age, meaning they've been exposed so early. But i dare ask, how are the NFF taking getting these guys serious? How are they planning on following the footsteps of Algeria in bringing back our sons? I'd love to see these compete to play for the Eagles. It's an abundance of talents that can herald alot of things, good things in the future.

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