At the age of 36, a football player should be winding down time on his career as time takes its toll on natural capacities. However, that doesn't appear to be the case for Peter Odemewingie, who is in blazing hot form in Indonesia at the moment.
Since arriving the shores of the archipelago nation in April, the former West Bromwich Albion striker has hit the back of the net 13 times in 14 games for Madura United, his latest coming in Monday’s 1-0 win over Persiba Balikpapan, which shot the Sapeh Kerab Warriors to the top of the Liga 1 standings.
This appears to demonstrate that Odemwingie still has a lot of juice left in the tank, despite playing in a less competitive league. However, is this enough to suggest that the veteran is good enough to play for the Super Eagles of Nigeria?
Goal conducted a poll after Monday’s result, asking if Odemwingie should put on the green jersey again, and 68% of readers responded saying that he’s good for a recall thanks to his great form, while 32% don’t think he’s needed because the team has better options upfront.
Current Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr faces a selection dilemma as he tries to get the Eagles in the best possible shape ahead of the 2018 World Cup qualifying double header against Cameroon next month.
The German tactician came under fire for his selection in Nigeria’s last outing in Uyo against South Africa which ended in defeat, with the forward line heavily criticised for switching off for the entire 90 minutes, failing to register a single shot on target.
Kelechi Iheanacho is the number one Nigeria striker at the moment, but uncertainty over his future at Manchester City might not put him in the best frame of mind for the team. He did not travel on the pre-season tour with the rest of the City squad and this will leave him lacking match fitness.
The other available options in attack are Odion Ighalo, Brown Ideye and Antony Ujah. The trio all ply their trade in the Chinese Super League and have been doing well for their respective clubs, but this trio is they never lived up to expectations when called up to the national team and Rohr wouldn’t want such to happen again with one of the five African slots in Russia next year at stake.
There are also young forwards in Henry Onyekuru and Victor Osimhen, but they might not be the players worth taking a gamble on considering their inexperience at senior level for Nigeria.
Odemwingie might thus be the best option for a recall into the Super Eagles. He has shown a level of consistency at majority of the clubs he’s played for. His time at West Bromwich Albion is arguably the most fruitful in his career as he was a menace to the big guns and became a favourite to watch among Premier League viewers worldwide.
Consider this, as the majority of Europe-based Nigerians are just coming back for pre-season training, they might not be 100% match fit in time for the Cameroon clash.
In the case of Odemwingie, the Indonesian Liga 1 is already firmly active, so selecting the Madura United man might save Rohr some stress of trying to figure out his fittest striker.
Odemwingie has not worn the green jersey since the 2014 World Cup, but his contributions to the national team have been immense. His goal against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Brazil ensured Nigeria made it out of the group phase of the global showpiece for the first time in 16 years. It was also Nigeria’s first win at the World Cup since the 1998 edition.
Who could also forget Odemwingie’s dazzling performance at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia, especially in the 4-0 drubbing of South Africa, where he scored a fantastic brace off the bench with just nine minutes of regular play left?
Nigeria went on to finish third in the tournament.
Having represented the West African giants at four Afcons, one Olympic game and two World Cups, with 62 caps to his name, nobody has more experience and exposure in the current Super Eagles team than Osaze Odemwingie.
Rohr needs someone to get the results for him and the Tashkent-born man might just be the right person at this crucial time. This one may not be as fanciful as it first seems!