With just weeks to June's 2014 World Cup qualifiers and Confederations Cup, the Super Eagles need a striker capable of replacing the Afcon highest goal scorer. Which of these two?
Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor
To say that the Super Eagles lost their way to goal against Kenya in March's World Cup qualifier in Calabar will be sounding like a broken record. The future is suddenly upon us and the team needs to find a capable replacement for Emmanuel Emenike as the national team seeks first to prosecute the friendly match against Mexico on May 31.
And then the subsequent crunch World Cup qualifiers against Kenya in Nairobi on June 5 and then to Windhoek to take on the Namibians on June 12.
The importance of getting good results from the two away matches cannot be over-stressed. The Eagles need at least four points from the two matches to stand a good chance of getting to the final round of the African qualifiers.
So we come to the conundrum being faced by the Stephen Keshi-led coaching team as they seek to replace Emenike, who for all intents and purposes made the Eagles attack tick in South Africa and in the process earned himself the highest goal scorer award.
“My first choice of player to replace Emenike was Victor Anichebe. But I gathered Anichebe said he is not ready to play for Nigeria for now," said Keshi to Goal on his arrival in the country on Monday.
“Now I am considering picking between Joseph Akpala and Mike Eneramo. [In few days to come] I will decide on who among these players would come with us to our Germany camp,” Keshi added.
If you need a big target man that will keep the ball and the defenders busy then the former Esperance man is the guy to go to. But comparing him to Emenike will be a disservice as they have different attributes.
Eneramo has scored 11 goals for Sivasspor in the Turkish top division and that is a good return for a mid-table team. But has he ever made his mark in the colours of Nigeria is the appropriate question and the answer will be that he has always put in a good shift whenever he was called upon - that translates to three goals in 10 appearances.Weighing in at 85 kilogrammes, Eneramo can be a bully when he is in his elements but he also showed last weekend that he could also score direct from a free kick akin to what Emenike did with his goal against Cote d’Ivoire at the Nations Cup. Though he is not the most mobile attacker, he is a striker who can score the scrambled effort, be cute with a deft chip or slam in the long-range shot.
SEASON BY SEASON STATS
MICHAEL ENERAMO | LAST 4 SEASONS STATS
Akpala is another big striker though not as bulky as Eneramo and his claim to fame in the Super Eagles was being credited with the goal against France in a friendly encounter in St. Etienne as the team prepared for the 2010 World Cup. But since that goal tapped in from close quarters on June 4, 2009, there has not been another one.
And though he made his debut for the national team in 2008, he has won a paltry seven caps in which he has scored twice.
Akpala is not the fastest man over 10m but he is a good link-up man possessing the acumen to come into midfield and set up play but he cannot be termed prolific in any sense. For qualifiers in Africa, on not too good pitches and brawny defenders and the referees letting a lot go, Akpala could be consumed, that is my opinion having watched him play for the last five years.SEASON BY SEASON STATS
JOSEPH AKPALA | LAST 4 SEASONS STATS
And in conclusion, Akpala is just coming back from an injurywhich means it is doubful that he is match fit for the conditions he will face in Nairobi and in Winhoek. What the Super Eagles need is a striker who is confident and scoring goals not one who needs encouragement from his mates to get on teh score sheet. Also Akpala has played only 352 minutes in the 19 league matches played which translates to about four matches. Meanwhile Eneramo has played 2543 minutes and scored 11 goals.
But all this is just analysis - the coach probabaly knows what to use as his indices to choose the best option that will deliver for the country. So it is your move - Stephen Keshi.
Unfortunately, Victor Anichebe has ruled himself out of the running. There is Kalu Uche who has been recalled to the team. The elder brother of Ikechukwu Uche has had an inspiring season in the colours of Kasimpasa – scoring 19 league goals in the Turkish league with a newly promoted team.
There is also Anthony Ujah, who has scored regularly for Cologne in the Bundesliga 2. There is also Brown Ideye and Ahmed Musa who should be able to take up the gauntlet on account of their goal scoring exploits at their respective clubs although the two men have managed only one goal each in their last six appearances for the Super Eagles.