By Ed Dove
Over the last two weeks Goal.com Nigeria’s office in Lagos has been inundated with entries for our second Obafemi Martins Quiz Spectacular. Once again a signed Levante shirt was on offer, but the editors at Goal upped the ante by demanding readers not only for their opinions, but also for their managerial acumen and journalistic skills.
We were not disappointed, and now armed with a vast cross-section of opinions and viewpoints, the team at Goal.com are able to correlate and compare your essays to form a popular consensus of suggestions for Nigeria boss Stephen Keshi.
So what do the people want? Has Solomon Kwambe done enough to merit selection? Has Shola Ameobi’s cameo against Venezuela guaranteed him a place among Stephen Keshi’s elite 23? And what of Obagoal himself, where does the Levante frontman stand in your affections? Super Eagles saviour, or hotshot run cold?
Read on to find out.
Taye Taiwo was the primary topic of your commendations and criticisms, the Dynamo Kiev left back receiving three-times as much comment as the next most featured player. Despite such an intense focus, however, the jury is still out on the ex-Marseille man.
Emmanuel Egobiambu was chief among those who advocated Taiwo. Egobiambu’s elegant appeal, entitled ‘The Proven Man,’ charted Taiwo’s key attributes – his experience, his goalscoring, his big-game mentality, but also placed Taiwo’s claims for a squad place within the context of Keshi’s recent rejuvenation of the Super Eagles set up.
Egobiambu argues that whilst the ‘new bloods’ of Keshi’s regime have earned the team a place at the Afcon, he now needs to turn to the ‘old horses’ to guarantee a prosperous month for Nigeria. Taiwo is one of these horses, and it is imperative that the boss takes down his name.
Also among the Taiwo apologetics were Voke Arawore, who recommended that Keshi should consider current form and enlist the Kiev man, and Charles Emeka, who advocated the inclusion of Taiwo to cover for the ‘unconvincing’ Elderson, also with a nod to the former Milan left back’s supreme shooting ability.
Many contributors, including those mentioned, have highlighted the failings of the defence as one reason for turning to certain fringe players. Seye Oyebamiji reckons that Solomon Kwambe’s recent performances should earn him a call up to add an extra dimension to the backline, whilst Adediran Emmanuel Yemi and Aderibigbe Temitope acknowledged that changes must be made to the defence, but aren’t convinced that Kwambe is this answer at this stage of his career.
Nedum Onuoha’s inclusion was another divisive topic among Goal.com Nigeria readers.
Nyong Asido sent in an impassioned essay claiming that Keshi should be getting down on his knees and literally begging the Q.P.R. man to throw his hat into the ring with the Super Eagles, whilst the aforementioned pair of Oyebamiji and Temitope asked the pertinent question: why should a player failing to make the first XI at his side, the club rooted to the foot of the Premier League, be seen as the ‘answer’ to Nigeria’s defensive woes?
Are there even any defensive woes? Whilst the likes of Taiwo and Onuoha drew excited and elaborate prose from you would-be Naija bosses, many contributors focused on issues further up the pitch.
Which fringe players will join Stephen Keshi's squad to the Afcon?
Another figure who inspired great debate was Lazio youngster Ogenyi Onazi, a genuine lightning pole of conviction among Super Eagles fans. John-Paul Nnamdi wrote a fine piece, commending the on-field ability of the young man, but also situating him within the narrative of Nigeria’s past greats. Nnamdi even went as far as to suggest that Onazi could one day replace the previously irreplaceable Sunday Oliseh in the heart of the midfield. Charles Emeka viewed Onazi as the ‘creative genius’ in the midfield, sitting alongside Mikel and complimenting the Chelsea man. Were Keshi to read Nnamdi’s evocative response – he would surely be convinced of Onazi’s worth as part of the chain that connects the older generation of Super Eagles to the youth of today. Marvellous stuff.
Sone Aluko was another who received lashings of praise from readers; Stanley Udolisa also tied the past to the present – suggesting that the Hull City man could continue Nigeria’s profound tradition of goalscoring wingers: Finidi, Amunike, Ikedia, Aluko? You saw it here first. The impressive Marshall Nwoke was another who advocated the former Aberdeen forward. Using statistics to support his eloquent proposal, Nwoke’s article on Aluko could well convince many a Nigerian on his worth to the national side.
Jimoh Azeez, on the other hand, saw no place for Aluko among Nigeria’s already talented stock of attacking talent. He was also quick to dismiss Shola Ameobi from Keshi’s plans, declaring him redundant, and suggesting that in Odemwingie and Martins, Nigeria have better options up front.
Agana Success took the opposite view on Ameobi, arguing that with his ability to create goals, as well as simply score them, he could be a valuable asset to the Super Eagles. As a starter, or as an impact sub, Ameobi has the ability to promote positive change within the team, and also cause woe for opposition defences.
Our other striking options all found varying degrees of favour within certain quarters of Super Eagles support. Ideye Brown was backed by Ernest Okpali, who cited his fine goal-scoring record as well as his recent impressive form as two major reasons the Dynamo Kiev man must travel to South Africa.
Another expert among us was Shina Oludare, who, in his guise as an apostle of Obafemi, wrote a glorious piece of prose listing the Levante striker’s credentials. As if quoting Coleridge wasn’t enough to get through to Keshi, Oludare also included some astute tactical advice and examined all of the ‘pocket dynamite’s’ key attributes. Adeyinka Kazeem was another who extolled the virtues of the former Newcastle man.
A final player who was considered by several of you was Internazionale’s Joel Obi. Whilst it is looking unlikely that the youngster will make the final cut for the Nations’ Cup, he still deserves a mention – certainly in the eyes of Usman Mohammed, whose extensive eulogy referred to the player’s skills, passing ability, spirit, and the potential glamour he will add to the squad.
One wonders if Keshi will share these sentiments.