Thursday, October 2, 2014

Keshi's new boys

pic courtsy Getty Images
 Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi last Friday released a 24 man list of players he hopes can rescue Nigeria's quest for qualifying for next year's Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted by Morocco.

The former Togo coach, dissatisfied with the performance of some of the players during the first batch of games against Congo and South Africa where the Super Eagles mustered a single point from a possible six, has decided to drop Nnamdi Oduamadi, Ramon Azeez and Uche Nwofor from the latest squad.

Michael Babatunde, who last featured for the Eagles at the World Cup in Brazil in June gets a recall and so do first choice goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama and Victor Moses, who were left out of the Congo and South Africa games.

Local league stars Chigozie Agbim, Gbolahan Salami and Osagouna Ighodaro are also included while creative midfielder Raheem Lawal is back in the fold after nearly two years in he international wilderness.

Keshi however handed out maiden call ups to Hope Akpan of Reading in the English Championship, Anyora Ugonna from Haugesund in the Norwegian Tippeligaen, Aaron Samuel from Chinese Super League side Guangzhou R & F, and relatively unknown Emmanuel Sunday who features for Austrian Bundesliga side SV Scholz Grodig.

The quartet, will hope to impress Stephen Keshi and show him they can do a job for him when the double header against Sudan takes centre stage despites fears from many quarters.

9jafooty profiles the four new players invited for the dicey, must win encounters with Sudan, their characteristics, suitability to the Eagles and what they can bring to the table as Nigeria tries to change her fortunes and get back on track towards qualifying for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

The debutants

Ugonna Anyora

Position: Midfield


Club: FC Haugesund, Norway

pic courtesy
 The Enugu native is a stong tackling offensive midfielder who is also quite comfortable anywhere across the midfield. His versatility his seen him being played from various positions for his team in the Norwegian top flight.

He moved to Norway in 2010 when he joined Haugesund where he has been since then, chalking up 101 matches for the Tippeligaen side in the process.

Standing at 6'0, Anyora will add some steel in the midfield if he gets to play as his physique and power will definitely compliment the likes Ogenyi Onazi and Mikel Obi in the central areas.

Depending on how Keshi decides to use him, he can be a pivot who sits just behind Mikel and Onazi, allowing the duo to be more offensive during transitions or he can be given an offensive license while Mikel sits deep akin to what he does for Chelsea.

Anyora, will have to seize his chance when he gets it because Keshi seems to be keen to sort out the problems around the central area of the midfield, whether the Haugesund man is the player to do that is left to be seen.

Hope Akpan

Position: Midfield


Club:Reading FC, England

pic courtesy
 Hope Akpan is another player Keshi will look unto for answers as the 'Big Boss' clearly rates the former Everton man who was born in Liverpool, England.

Eligible for England and Nigeria, he has constantly maintained he will jump at an opportunity to play for the Super Eagles and it will be left to see if he seizes the chance Keshi has foisted on him.

"Hope Akpan is a player we've been monitoring for sometime now. He has already played six matches for his club this season and we believe he can add something to the group." Keshi exclusively told

Having come through the Everton ranks where he made a single Premiership appearance, Akpan has featured for Hull City, Crawley Town and Reading since then.

Akpan is a combative midfielder, who leaves no prisoners as occasioned by his tackle that broke AFC Wimbledon's Jason Prior's leg in 2012, something, Akpan says was an unfortunate incident.

There was an evident lack of grit in the Eagles midfield especially in the first game against Congo. None of the midfielders was positioned to break up the Congolese build ups as the Eagles sat down and allowed the Red Devils execute their plans.

This backfired spectacularly.

Keshi needs a 'cleaner' in the midfield, someone to do the dirty work. Someone to relieve Mikel off his defensive responsibilities, someone who can allow Onazi venture forward to add numbers when the Eagles attack, maybe Akpan can fill that void.

Akpan fits the bill, but can he do the business? Time will tell.

Aaron Samuel

Position: Attack

Age: 20

Club: Guangzhou R & F, China
pic courtesy R & F
 The 20 year old was one of Nigeria's unheralded youngsters in Europe until his recent unexpected move to China. Snapped up by modest Norwegian side Sarpsborg 08 in 2013 from Shooting Stars Sports Club of Ibadan, he has made steady progress since then.

Thirteen goals in 31 matches fo Sarpsborg 08 FF saw the then 19 year old snapped up by Oslo side Valeranga, where he just spent a season before crossing over to the lucrative Chinese Super League. 

Aaron has scored two goals in ten matches for is new Chinese side.

Built like a tank, Samuel has great physical strength and pace to burn, even though his move to the Chinese Super League might look like a step down and not where you should find a Super Eagles attacker.

Nigeria have scored a misery five goals in the last five internationals, an average of a goal per game which isn't good for a team who are the reigning Africa champions.

Maybe Keshi sees Samuel as someone who can add something to the attack. His style of play is similar to Emmanuel Emenike, where he makes good use of his upper body strength and pace to great use.

His goal to game average isn't bad too compared to other Nigerian attackers in the team, but it will be left to see if he can make the transition to international level football.

Sunday Emmanuel

Position: Attack

Age: 22

Club:SV Grodig, Austria

pic courtesy

Sunday Emanuel's invitation is a strange one compared to the other new players listed. The 22 year old has only played 124 minutes of top flight football this season ( one in the Austrian Bundesliga and another in the Austrian Cup).

He joined Grodig who are placed 8th on the Austrian Bundesliga log after 10 matches from Vietnamese side Than Quang Ninh.

The former Sunshine Stars attacker has been in the Asian country since 2011 where he has turned out for Than Hoa FC, Becamex Binh Doung FC and Than Quang Ninh before moving to mainland Europe.

Emmanuel is a pacy attacker, his game and build is similar to Brown Ideye, who has been left out of the latest set up. The jury is already out on the basis of his invitation and he has an opportunity to prove critics wrong.

The Super Eagles, placed third in Group A of the qualifiers have to start raking in the points from the next round of games especially the game in Nigeria on October 11.

That fixture has to ace the three points to give the Eagles confidence going into the cracker in Omdurman. I'm not quite sure which of the new call ups will make a difference in the team or what spice they may add to Keshi's broth

What is sure however, is that the Super Eagles are condemned to win and must get maximum points off Sudan, if they are to make Morocco 2015 and defend the Africa Cup of Nations title.
The die is cast. Soar Eagles.

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