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Nigeria’s national team as presently constituted boasts of some of the best strikers in Africa but the squad needs to find unity of purpose in order to conquer the continent

ANALYSIS
By Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor

The Super Eagles were at one time a mighty team on the African continent but at the moment are struggling to enact the feats of past teams and players that wore the famous green and white strip.

The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations coming up in South Africa is therefore another opportunity to flex the muscles that have been built up in the last 12 months under new coach, Stephen Keshi.

Daniel Amokachi, assistant coach of the Super Eagles recently stated that the team is starting to show signs of revival after they beat Venezuela in a recent friendly match.

When the team lines up for their first match against Burkina Faso on January 21 in Nelspruit, some things will have to be enhanced and some factors will have to be downplayed.

STRONG POINT - THE ATTACK


The team as presently constituted is ‘top heavy’. This is the fact that the majority of the best players and with the most experience are forwards or strikers as is apt in this case.

These players have been playing well at their respective clubs in Europe and it will be one serious decision from the coach on which of these strikers will have to concentrate on the coming World Cup qualifiers.

From Ikechukwu Uche to Brown Ideye and now the resurgence of Obafemi Martins, the coach is inundated with almost world-class strikers, who will score goals against any opposition in January.

So with that point agreed upon, the technical crew has to devise a game plan to play to this strength. Is it to play a 4-2-4 formation so that the team is always on the front foot or a 3-5-2, where the midfield is made up of more attacking talents? These are questions to be answered before the first match.

ADJUSTABLE POINT - THE MIDFIELD
The midfield of the Super Eagles could be the albatross or the sucker punch in January, depending on which of the current crop of players the coach decides upon and the combination that will be applied.

We have some players that can help the team achieve its goals and that is why this is an adjustable part of the team. The coach knows the players that will be most emotionally stable during tough times and those players are the ones that will be needed in January.

Teams like Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire have settled squads so when and where we meet these teams, the result will be determined by choosing players who are strong mentally and are ready to do battle to the end.

WEAK POINT - THE DEFENCE

Obviously the Super Eagles defence is the weakest link in the team – the reason being that defenders in a team must be in consonance and rhythm to be able to thwart strikers.

They may not be the most capable technically but if they merge seamlessly – they will get their jobs done easily. So the coaches must be looking at getting players that will complement and play for each other – needed throughout the whole team but especially important for defending.

Where the 1994 squad had players especially the defenders who had played together from the local league – New Nigeria Bank (NNB); from where the present coach honed his mettle, this present team are strangers to one another. Though I will not advise that the home-based players make up the defensive unit, there must be a vigorous integration of the players that will be used in that department during the ten days of camping in Faro.

All in all, the team if properly constituted is a dark horse for becoming winners of the Afcon for the third time. But the weightiest question that must be answered successfully by Stephen Keshi is getting the players that will complement each other during the tournament.

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