Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Litmus test for Oliseh's newbies

Nigeria coach Sunday Oliseh knows a lot about pressure from Nigerian fans. As a player, he had a run-in with fans and the press alike.

Yet he rose and even captained the team in his playing days. Such will be the temperament when he files out for the first time as the coach of the Super Eagles at the National Stadium in Dar Es Salaam this weekend.

Oliseh showed a glimpse of his former self when he categorically told the media:

“Any player who isn’t playing in the first team of the top division will not play for me”.

Those were his words just after being unveiled as the Super Eagles coach. Though some concessions were made along the line, Oliseh had already set himself up for scrutiny from the average Super Eagles fan.

When the final list of players was released, there a few surprises, a few comebacks, and a glut of usual suspects in the mix.

Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper Carl Ikeme made a return from the international wilderness since he was named in a squad by former Nigeria coach Berti Vogts seven years ago.

Former youth international Lukman Haruna also made the cut after a five year absence from the Eagles as Obiorah Nwankwo, now with Academica de Coimbra in Portugal was considered.

The surprise however was the invitation of the uncapped duo of Sylvester Igboun and Izunna Uzochukwu.

Oliseh certainly sees what we don't

Carl Ikeme isn’t exactly unknown to Nigerian fans, but who are Sylvester Igboun and Izunna Uzochukwu (above) and what can they bring to the table?

Supersport.com dug a little bit and ran the rule on the newbies in the team

Carl Ikeme (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, England)

I’ve seen the imposing goalkeeper play a couple of times. He is a mix of the excellent an sometimes frustrating.

Had a spell on the sidelines when Wayne Hennessey was first choice but he seems to be back in the groove now for the Championship side.

Ikeme is 29, a ripe age for goalkeepers and getting called up at his prime is a dream come true for the man who famously got sidelined a couple of season’s ago through a freak home incident.

"I thought it was a joke by one of my team mates so I called the number in the email and spoke to coach Sunday Oliseh."Ikeme told supersport.com last week.

"At my age I am in a better position to enjoy this call up. I am looking forward greatly to meeting up with the best Nigerian players available. I am aware of how important the national team is Nigerians so it will be great sampling the atmosphere".he added.

Carl Ikeme @bbc

Ikeme commands his area very well and is quite excellent aerially, however ,his shot stopping needs a bit of improvement and so does his concentration.

I think he will be a good addition to the squad considering Vincent Enyeama is gradually edging towards the twilight zone per Super Eagles.

Sylvester Igboun (FC UFA, Russia)

The bulky forward is also called ‘Sly’, in European circles where he plays for UFA FC in the Russian top flight. I first heard about him when he moved to Scandinavia from FC Ebiede (a club in Lagos, Nigeria owned by Churchill Oliseh, a lawyer and Sunday Oliseh’s older brother).

The 24 year old can play as a centre forward or from the left channel. Igboun moved to Russia this current season on the back of some impressive stats for FC Midtjylland.

Igboun raked in 47 goals in 164 official matches for the the Danish champions with some 30 assists to booth. Such stats shows he is a good player albeit Scandinavia isn’t exactly the pick of the crop.

The potential is there and hopeful he can churn such impressive stats for Nigeria as he did for FC Midtjylland.

Izunna Ernest Uzochukwu (FC Amkar Perm, Russia)

Another player from the famous FC Ebiede stable who also took the same path like Igboun to Europe, starting from FC Midtjylland before heading out to the Russian Premier Liga with Amkar Perm who have Fegor Ogude and Chuma Anene who holds a Norwegian passport

Uzochukwu, 25, is a strong, tackling defensive midfielder who takes no prisoners and is always ready to rub the green and do the dirty work.

This perhaps is one area where he needs to clean up his act as his disciplinary records aren’t exactly on a white print. Maybe Oliseh, who also played in that position for the Eagles can help him do just that.

Sunday Oliseh will have his baptism on the Eagles hot seat this weekend hoping that the players he listed out can help him start on a good note.

He needs to get the combination between the local lads and the foreign players right. He is condemned to do so.

Overall it isn’t a bad list, but only points from Dar Es Salaam can give Oliseh a soft couch to sit on after 90 minutes. Anything other than that, and the knives will be out.

Originally published on supersport.com

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