First and foremost my most sincere apologies for my absence without leave!
I appreciate the texts and emails enquiring after my column. Needless to say I’m back!!
A lot has been said about Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi’s provisional 30- man squad for the World Cup, so I might as well add my two kobo’s worth.
There are two areas I will comment on – the exclusions and the composition of the squad.
I still remain baffled at the exclusion of Villareal’s in-form striker Ikechukwu Uche. Scoring 13 goals in La Liga is no mean feat and I believe his calmness and composure in front of goal would have served the Eagles well in Brazil.
I feel for Brown Ideye who has served his nation with such distinction but he has paid the price for his lack of goals for the national team and some glaring misses, especially in the Confederations Cup in Brazil last year. I certainly won’t quibble about his exclusion.
I’m very happy our prodigal Eagle Osaze Odemwinge is back in the nest, after a successful end of season with Stoke and a lot of off the pitch diplomacy. His experience, pace and eye for goal will definitely add to Stephen Keshi’s attacking options. I’m also pleased with the selection of five domestic league players, especially Rangers’ Ejike Uzoenyi and Sunshine Stars’ defensive stalwart Kunle Odunlami, both who were brilliant at CHAN in January.
I won’t harp on particular members of the squad that shouldn’t have been picked, that would be unfair. Nevertheless the overwhelming impression I get is there are too many players selected who are not playing regular football in their clubs.
One of the reasons I shouted from the rooftops for the inclusion of both Odemwinge and Uche is both are regular starters for their clubs. The same can’t be said of the bulk of the squad and it is mildly disconcerting.
This lack of game time for some of the squad could be looked at in two ways. The English or Spanish players would have played an average of 40 plus club games and could be going to Brazil jaded. On the contrary, the Eagles squad should be fresher by default, having played far fewer games collectively.
The flip side of this argument however is the distinct possibility of match rustiness. Some key members of the Super Eagles team that swept all before them in South Africa last year have become veritable benchwarmers. This is bound to affect their game. Eagles’ fans won’t know how badly their lack of match practice has affected them, until our opening match against Iran.
Let nobody be deceived. The African champions’ progression from the group stages to the knockout rounds is NOT a foregone conclusion. Victory over Iran must be taken as a given, if we are to have a realistic chance of advancing. Our major stumbling block are the World Cup debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina. We all know the quality of Argentina. Going into the final game against the South Americans needing three points is a scenario we would be well-advised to avoid.
Bosnia manager Safet Susic was the first World Cup bound manager to name his squad for Brazil. Not a training squad but the full 23. Appointed in December 2009 he survived vociferous calls from the Bosnian media for his sacking, after his team failed to qualify for EURO 2012. With a current FIFA ranking of 25th and an all- time high ranking of 13th, as recently as last August, the Dragons or the Golden Lilies as they are otherwise known, are not a team to be underestimated.