Grading Nigeria’s Squad after their Afcon Triumph

Following their celebrated Afcon triumph, Goal Nigeria's Ed Dove grades Stephen Keshi's 23 Nigerian superstars on their tournament performances.
 Ed Dove
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1. Vincent Enyeama – Pre-tournament suggestions that his time with the national team were up proved ill-founded as Enyeama emerged as the continent’s premier shot stopper. He reassured the young defence in front of him throughout, before a stunning save in the final broke Burkinabé spirits once and for all. A

16. Austin Ejide & 23. Chigozie Agbim – While other African nations managed to get through numerous stoppers during the tournament, neither Ejide nor Agbim got a look-in with Enyeama in imperious form. n/a


2.Joseph Yobo – Despite roaring the roar of a nation as he became the first Nigerian to lift the Afcon in nearly two decades, Yobo must have been disappointed with his contribution. Broke the appearance record during the Cup, but the skipper was reduced to the periphery as younger blood manned the defensive berths. Dropped after the opener, he only appeared as a substitute thereafter-responsible for closing down games and stabilising the defence. B-

3. Elderson – Occasionally criticised before the tournament for his defensive lapses, Elderson looked solid in the Afcon, playing every minute until the final, when he was replaced by Oshaniwa late on. Scored the opener against Mali with an excellent stooping header. A

4. Efe Ambrose – Made the team of the tournament after an unsteady start. Sent off, harshly, for two yellows against Burkina Faso, he returned to the starting XI against Ethiopia and was a rock for the rest of the tournament. Fears about his lack of pace rarely materialised, and he delivered a mammoth performance in the final. A

5. Azubuike Egwuekwe – A regular under Keshi in 2012, Egwuekwe was wholly overlooked for the Afcon, failing to contribute on-field. Oboabona was preferred initially, while Omeruo received the surprise nod to step into the breach during Ambrose’s suspension. Has slipped down the pecking order. n/a

"Despite roaring the roar of a nation as he became the first Nigerian to lift the Afcon in nearly two decades, Yobo must have been disappointed with his contribution."
14. Godfrey Oboabona – Hasn’t received the headlines in the same way as Mikel or Moses, but the Super Eagles look set for years with the youngster manning the heart of the defence. At fault, perhaps, for Alain Traore’s equaliser in the opening game, but rarely put a foot wrong after that. Contained Drogba effectively in the quarterfinal, and demonstrated genuine class in the run-in. A

21. Juwon Oshaniwa – The versatile squad player made a late entrance in the final, receiving a booking and gunning for glory with a wild late strike. C+

22. Kenneth Omeruo – One of the revelations of the tournament. Replaced Ideye Brown in the opener and played every minute thereafter, forging a tight, if ostensibly inexperienced, unit with Oboabona. Remarkable to think he is only a teenager; Nigeria & Chelsea have an absolute gem on their hands. A


4. Nwanwko Obiorah – One of the younger members of the squad, Obiorah only featured briefly, replacing Igiebor for the final quarter against Zambia. Likely to have much more of an influence in the future. C

10. John Obi Mikel – Overcame early over-elaboration and began to truly impose himself and dominate contests; silenced Yaya Toure in the quarterfinal, before carrying the team to glory in the subsequent matches. Missed penalty against Zambia was soon forgotten as Mikel finally performed as the midfield general Naija have long been dreaming of. A+

12. Reuben Gabriel – Being one of two outfield players to fail to see even a minute of action at the Afcon might naturally have been a disappointment for the Kano Pillars man, but still only 22, the tournament can be seen as a valuable learning experience. n/a

"Few Super Eagles fans will ever be able to forget his role in the side’s victorious Afcon campaign."

13. Fegor Oduge – Offered tenacious tackling early on, receiving two cautions in the process, but didn’t see any action in the knockout stages, with Onazi and Mba preferred. C

17. Ogenyi Onazi – Only recently turned 20, few expected Onazi to have a major impact in the Afcon, but he delivered some masterful performances after ousting Ogude in the starting line-up. An ever-present in the latter stages, Onazi was constantly busy, and performed admirably as Mikel’s foil. Nigerians can be very excited by the youngster’s progress. A

18. Ejike Uzoenyi – A late substitute in the demolition of Mali, Uzoenyi may well feel aggrieved not to have made more of a contribution, particularly after an impressive maiden year with the national side. C-

19. Sunday Mba -  I was one of many who gawped when Stephen Keshi opted for Mba ahead of some more illustrious names. After initially appearing like he would be little more than a silent squad player, the Warri Wolves man was a surprise inclusion against Ethiopia. He grasped his opportunity and never looked back, offering assured midfield play, as well as pivotal goals against CIV and Burkina Faso. Few Super Eagles fans will ever be able to forget his role in the side’s victorious Afcon campaign. A+

20. Nosa Igiebor – A disappointing return for a player who had been much heralded before the tournament. Failed to provide the creative spark in the opening two games, and didn’t feature again after being replaced against Zambia. C-


7. Ahmed Musa – Started against Burkina, but was replaced against Zambia after picking up a yellow. Featured regularly after that in a substitute capacity, looking bright and dangerous with his pace and movement, but only registered once, in the rout of Mali. B

8. Ideye Brown – Made a considerable impact, despite being dropped after the opening game. Scored in the semifinal demolition, but his most impressive contribution might have been his delightful assist for Emenike’s goal against Burkina. The pair have the makings of an excellent international partnership. B+
"His movement and audacity to forge the initial opening for Elderson’s goal was unforgettable."

9.Emmanuel Emenike – A terrific contribution from the player who took home the Top Scorer award after a return of 4 goals. This was compensation for missing the final through injury, a reality that must have been devastating for the Spartak Moscow man. Goals in the group against Burkina Faso & Zambia were crucial, and opened the scoring emphatically against the Ivory Coast with an absolute belter. A+

10. Victor Moses – A true coming-of-age for the Chelsea man. A quiet start in the group before bursting into life against Ethiopia, almost single-handedly securing qualification with two converted penalties, earned after some searing dribbling. Didn’t find the net again, but was menacing against CIV and the inspiration against Mali. His movement and audacity to forge the initial opening for Elderson’s goal was unforgettable. A+

15. Ike Uche – A really disappointing tournament for the frontman, who I had earmarked as a potential top scorer. Late substitute appearances in Naija’s opening games bore no fruit, while he was ineffectual in his first start, against Ethiopia. Muscled out by the dynamism of Brown and Emenike, he returned in the final, but delivered an anonymous performance. C

Do you agree with Ed Dove's grading? Let's hear what you think in the comments section below.