A Goal Nigeria reader expresses concern about some of the Nigeria squad's struggles at club levelGUEST FEATURE
By Enoch Tobe
With less than six months to go until the World Cup, the exploits (or lack of them) of those players expected to represent Nigeria at the FIFA Mundial are a genuine cause for concern.
Out of those players typically selected by Stephen Keshi in recent months, only a handful— Vincent Enyeama, Efe Ambrose, Ogenyi Onazi and Ahmed Musa—can boast of regular playing time for their respective clubs. As a matter of fact, these three ought to cause fans no concern. Enyeama, in particular, has been in stellar form, with 60 saves and 14 clean sheets, guiding his team, Lille, to third-place in Ligue 1.
For the rest however, the story is much less inspiring.
Centre-back pairing, Godfrey Oboabona and Kenneth Omeruo, have only 1,080 minutes between them; the latter with a solitary reserve game for Chelsea before being loaned to Championship side, Middlesbrough. Even now that he has moved to seek first-team football, there is no certainty that the former ADO-Den Haag man will find regular game time before the big kick off.
Oboabona | Making up the Minutes
Perhaps even less comforting, John Obi Mikel, regarded as the heartbeat of the midfield, has only started 14 out of 32 games in all competitions for Chelsea. This ratio is set to diminish as Chelsea have just spent over £20 million to secure the transfer of Nemanja Matic from Benfica. Here is a player who operates in the same role as Mikel, and one who is unlikely to be benched for too long by the Super Eagles favourite.
Other midfield options seem to be sharing a similar fate; John Ogu has only made six substitute appearances this season, Nosa Igiebor has played just seven times in La Liga, Sunday Mba, after sitting out most of the year due to an ownership tussle between Enugu Rangers and Warri Wolves, has only recently moved to the French second division. It remains to be seen whether he can rediscover his form and fitness ahead of the sojourn to Brazil.
Emmanuel Emenike, expected to lead the attack, is playing regularly with Fenerbahce in Turkey, but has had his injury concerns in the past. The national selectors will be hoping that he can steer clear of further misfortune over the coming months.
Victor Moses, another cog in the team, has made just a few appearances for Liverpool since scoring on his debut against Swansea. With the chemistry between Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho looking so menacing at the moment, it will likely take a miracle (or a moment of madness from the Uruguayan) for the Nigerian to force his way back to the forefront of Brendan Rogers’ thoughts.
Elderson | Set for a spell on the sidelines?
The recent transfer of Elderson Echiejile from Braga to AS Monaco—a club competing near the pinnacle of Ligue 1—has generated much excitement among Nigeria fans. However, can Elderson easily displace Layvin Kurzawa? The youngster is currently performing as one of the division’s top full-backs and it is by no means a given that the Nigerian full-back will claim a starting berth immediately.
It could be argued that focus, determination and team spirit are all that truly matter and that inactive players might overcome rustiness by working together and generating a strong bond. The Senegal side of 2002 are an interesting case-in-point; they defeated France at the World Cup 2002, in the tournament’s opening game no less, through a combination of tenacious work and unrelenting determination.
However, while that might be enough to see the Super Eagles safely out of the group stage, it surely won’t be enough for them to overcome the bigger sides, the likes of France, Spain, Portugal, Germany or Belgium in the knock-out rounds. Ability and form will surely have a major influence, and without regular playing time, without the comfort of being a key operator at a thriving club, we cannot expect our Super Eagle stars to be on their best form.
- Enoch Tobe writes via email@example.com
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