The likely thinking behind the list of 23 players released by Stephen Keshi

The national team coach will live or die by the selection of his preferred squad that will represent Nigeria at the Nations Cup
By Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor

When it comes to choosing and dropping, whatever decisions are made will always go under the microscope and get continually examined for flaws and other nuances that might have gone into making up the list.

The 23 players chosen by the Stephen Keshi-led technical crew is a case in point and there are so many questions to ask.

And even as much as the criteria for the choices were not cast in stone – there are accusations from some quarters that there might have been some emotional and spiritual inputs into the list.

But let us critically look at the team as it is made up and technically appraise the players that were chosen against those that were not chosen especially looking at the inclusion of six home-based players. Will the Nigeria Premier League stars get action, some action or will they be perpetual bench warmers?


In the goalkeeping section, it is a good thing that we have three capable players who can be called upon to play and over the course of last year, we saw the three in action. They will pass but we can definitely not do better.

In the defence, I have some questions. Why were the likes of Michael Odibe, Dele Adeleye, Gege Soriola and James Okwuosa not invited to test their mettle in the team, knowing that we have a challenge in central defence? Joseph Yobo has lost some speed; the technical crew do not trust Efe Ambrose in central areas which he commands for his club but the evidence shows that the Super Eagles lack a generalissimo at the back.

And why will Keshi persist with using Ambrose at right back when evidence shows us that Omeruo is better in that position, being one he plays in week in week out for ADO Den Haag in the Dutch Eredivisie? Omeruo should start at the Nations Cup as he is ahead of Ambrose by miles.

We do not know what happened to Apam Onyekachi – it could have been the same country/club row that kept Millwall’s Danny Shittu and Shola Ameobi from honouring invitations.


In the midfield, the question will be – why was Fengor Ogude chosen ahead of Raheem Lawal? There are rumours making the rounds that Ogude’s agent is Chris Green’s bosom friend. On the evidence of the former Warri Wolves midfielder’s performances against Catalonia XI and Cape Verde – there can be no justification.

But we also know that Ogude can fill in at the back – from right back to central defence; which may have been the thinking of the coach. But we will wait to see how this plays out.

With what Nosa Igiebor showed in the second half against Cape Verde – the two nailed down spots in midfield will be Mikel Obi and Igiebor with either of Obiorah Nwankwo, Ogude or Ogenyi Onazi joining the middle three.

We will not be asking this question if Joel Obi had been fit. He would have been a nailed down option for either of Ogude, Nwankwo or Onazi.


And now to the attack and people must understand that one bad influencer in a team of 23 can create a mutiny against the coach and derail carefully laid down plans.

So the exclusion of Peter Odemwingie can be justified, the choice of Sunday Mba over Bright Dike is a bit baffling. Is it because he is home-based and Dike is based in the US?

We also have to remember the beautiful goal Dike scored against Catalonia which showed poise and accuracy - have we seen any of that in Mba?

There will continue to be questions and the only action that will forever silence gainsayers will be the Super Eagles beating all opposition to the Nations Cup trophy on February 10 in Johannesburg. The coach will die or live by his selections and let him earn his fat pay cheque.

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