Grading Nigeria’s Super Eagles after CHAN campaign

As Nigeria’s home-based national side return home following the African Nations Championship, Goal grades the performances of Salisu Yusuf’s squad

  1. #1 Ikechukwu Ezenwa: A

    The stopper punctuated his early showings with a few key saves, keeping clean sheets against Rwanda and Libya. He won the Man of the Match award after the extra-time victory over Angola, having made a series of fine stops to keep the Super Eagles in the match, and earned praise from Gernot Rohr in the aftermath. While Dele Ajiboye deserves credit for stepping in when Ezenwa was injured against Sudan, the captain’s calming presence was missed in the final.
  2. #2 Dele Ajiboye: A

    He may have conceded four in the final, two after parried clearances, but he deserves his grade almost exclusively for his semi-final showing against Sudan. Had it not been for Ajiboye, coming in cold after Ezenwa was injured, the Eagles might never have even made the final, and the stopper was rightly lauded for his display.
  3. #3 Osas Okoro: A

    Doubts remain about his defensive positioning, but Okoro was largely strong when challenged and his set-piece delivery was admirable. The right-back was praised by Gabriel Okechukwu for his long-range diagonal passes, while his crossing was also a consistent threat.
  4. Tolu Olasoji

    #4 Stephen Eze: A

    Man of the Match in the 1-0 victory over Libya, Eze was a commanding pressure throughout the tournament. His aerial quality eased the pressure on Ezenwa, a goalkeeper of small stature, and he may be in Rohr’s World Cup considerations.
  5. #5 Kalu Orji: B

    Forged a fine partnership with Eze, but struggled to keep his team’s composure while wearing the armband in the final. Against Morocco, his decision-making—particularly his choices about coming out of defence to close down forwards—was also questionable.
  6. #6 Timothy Danladi: B

    Introduced against Angola after Orji’s injury, the defender was pilloried for deflecting Va’s strike past Ezenwa in the second half, but in truth, there was little he should have done differently. Beyond that, he won a series of aerial battles during his only showing of the tournament.
  7. #7 Daniel Itodo: B

    The defender missed the latter portion of the competition due to injury, but before that had been solid at the back and represented a key offensive threat with his long-range throws. However, doubts remain about his use of the ball when in possession, and he didn’t match Okoro’s offensive output.
  8. #8 Ikouwem Utin: A

     Despite his inexperience, he stepped in to replace Itodo on the left admirably during the knockout stages. The young full-back looks to have a bright future, and while raw, he’ll be one of watch in the NPFL this term.
  9. #9 Abdullahi Musa: C

    Was given 28 minutes as a substitute against Sudan, but hardly made the Super Eagles more defensively resilient, with Ajiboye required to bail the team out on several occasions.
  10. #10 Rabiu Ali: C

    While there were some glimpses of Ali’s talent during the opening rounds, his age appeared to catch up with him and his prominence reduced as the tournament wore on. He missed a series of chances against Rwanda, and struggled to get the best out of Anthony Okpotu. It’s telling that Nigeria improved significantly after he was replaced by Dayo Ojo during the group stage.
  11. #11 Dayo Ojo: A

    The dynamic midfielder impressed after coming on against Libya and was the key catalyst in the victory over Equatorial Guinea, scoring a stunner in the process. His ball-winning qualities and ability to link the midfield to the attack added some vitality to the Eagles thereafter, although he was eclipsed in the final.
  12. #12 Francis Atuloma: B+

    Impressed early on in his role in front of the back four, winning the ball back consistently to protect those ahead of him and spraying forward balls to the onrushing full-backs. He deserves credit for Nigeria’s fine defensive record up to the final, but was part of a midfield that was completely overpowered by Morocco in Casablanca.
  13. #13 Ifeanyi Ifeanyi: D

    Didn’t justify his inclusion during the opening games and lost his place in the team after picking up a knock. Was dismissed in the semi-final to further deplete Nigeria’s options.
  14. #14 Emeka Ogbugh: B

    Bright in spells, but an end product was lacking, and the newness of his relationship with Sunday Faleye and Anthony Okpotu meant the trio were often on different wavelengths during the early matches.
  15. #15 Augustine Oladapo: B

    Used somewhat sparingly by Rohr, he was arguably Nigeria’s best player during extra-time against Angola, as he appeared to find his legs while the opposition tired. His passing and energy could have made Nigeria stronger vs. Morocco, but he was only introduced as a substitute for Ali in the final.
  16. #16 Sunday Faleye: A

    Was Nigeria’s brightest light early on—netting the only goal of the game against the Libyans—and he was missed against Sudan and Morocco after a dislocated elbow ended his tournament early. The future is bright for Faleye, even though he must refine various elements of his game.
  17. #17 Peter Moses: D

    A dubious inclusion in the squad due to his fitness concerns, Moses was a surprise starter in the final—a shock addition by Yusuf, potentially as the manager tried to justify his decision to include him—and repaid his manager with a dismissal early in the second half. A tournament to forget for the talented attacker.
  18. Twitter/ Caf

    #18 Anthony Okpotu: B

    There was a goal against Equatorial Guinea and the dramatic late equaliser against Angola, but in general, Okpotu struggled to bring his menacing NPFL form to the CHAN. The top flight’s reigning top scorer was admired by Yusuf for his selflessness and physical play, but Nigeria needed goals, and he was dropped for the final.
  19. #19 Gabriel Okechukwu: A

    A- Had a peripheral role during the early stages of the competition, but returned to take centre stage late on. Netted winners against both Angola and Sudan, the first a thing of beauty, but cut an isolated presence in the final.
  20. #20 Ibrahim Mustapha: C+

    Totalled just over 50 minutes across three substitute appearances, but didn’t appear to have the complete trust of Yusuf. The forward, despite his pace and movement, was curiously overlooked in games when it appeared as though Nigeria needed exactly the qualities he offered.

  21. #21 Mohammed Nur: C

    The wonderkid was given a few brief cameos, but failed to make a decisive impact despite some glimpses of his intelligence. One for the future, certainly, but was he really among the best the NPFL could offer?