Nigeria's squad for this year's Confederations Cup may not look appealing to some with several big names which regularly featured in the team sheet gone missing. Seasoned professionals like Peter Odemwingie, Obafemi Martins and Joseph Yobo have been dropped while Victor Moses misses out through injury. However, this side has a youthful core to it which was instrumental in theri AFCON triumph earlier this year.
The current crop of players have come through the ranks together and have great team spirit. This Nigerian side have a good balance to it and this tournament is an opportunity for them to prove that their AFCON success was no flash in the pan.
Coach and System
Stephen Keshi made his name in football as a Nigerian player in the 80's and 90's and has built on his reputation with his management of the national team at present. Having been appointed in 2011, he hasn't been afraid of making big decisions particularly with his team selection. The former Nigerian captain left out star players when he named his squad for the AFCON finals earlier this year.
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However, he's had a great impact on the side and his selection was justified when they eventually won the AFCON finals. Incidentally, he became one of only two people in history to have won the tournament as a player and manager.
Of late, Keshi has employed a fluid 4-3-3 system and it's one that's served his side well over the past six months or so. Despite the absence of Victor Moses, Nigeria still retains plenty of pace and attacking intent.
They operate with plenty of width and it's the ability of their wide men that make them dangerous on the attack. Ahmed Musa and Brown Ideye are the foremost candidates to occupy the flanks but Nnamdi Oduamadi can always step in for either or them.
Musa and Ideye are both very quick and skillful and have an eye for goal. Ideye can also play as a center forward. Joseph Akpala has struggled since he moved to the Bundesliga but Keshi continues to put faith in him. He's quick, strong and a good finisher. He can hold up the ball or make runs in behind as well.
As mentioned earlier, the trickery of the two wingers is their attack's best feature but Sunday Mba is often the man who orchestrates proceedings. He sits in front of John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi in midfield. While Mikel rarely ventures forward when playing for Chelsea, he's notably more adventurous for Nigeria and is capable of driving the team forward like he did at times at the AFCON finals.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths: Nigeria look solid in central midfield and on the flanks. Mikel and Onazi make for a formidable core to the team and Mba is vital to their build-up play. The wide players are two of the quickest in the tournament and will torment full-backs. The whole team have a lot of energy and show good work ethic.
Weaknesses: Inexperience is perhaps the biggest concern for this young side. The oldest outfield player in the squad is the 26 year old Akpala. The most worrying area is that of central defense. Gofrey Oboabona is 22 while Kenneth Omuero is only 19. Neither have much experience at the top level and are susceptible to the odd lapse in concentration.
Star man: Brown Ideye
With Cup of Nations top-scorer Emmanuel Emenike injured, Brown Ideye stands out as the most prolific forward in front of goal for Nigeria. The forward has been in good form with Ukranian side Dynamo Kiev having scored 21 goals for them this season. Despite playing center forward at club level, Ideye may well take up a wide position with the national side.
He did play centrally in the AFCON tournament for five of the six games but only notched one goal. However, he has been effective when played in a wide position. His pace along with his dribbling and finishing ability makes him a constant threat to defenses. He drifts inside and makes runs down the middle to get in behind the defense.
The 24 year old has been linked with a move to Newcastle United and while there's been interest from West Ham United as well, while his agent claims that the forward prefers the Magpies. for now at least, Ideye will be focussed on the national team and will most likely shoulder the bulk of their attacking play along with Musa on the opposite flank.
|What do you make of Nigeria's chances? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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