Stephen Keshi and the Eagles call ups

Once again the debates have started in Nigeria. Enter the beer parlours (bars), television viewing centers and social media, everyone who knows football is talking about the players that Nigerian manager, Stephen Keshi has called up for the final FIFA Brazil 2014 World Cup Qualifying game against Ethiopia.

What bothers me here is not the average fan on the street or the illiterate in the beer parlor or viewing center.

I bother about the pundits on TV, radio and social media who go on and on disparaging (I love this word) the coach every time he does something.

It seems as if the national past time of Nigerians is to criticize public figures for whatever they do or do not do.

I actually expect to tune into radio and television sports shows to hear pundits talk about the players invited, what they bring to the team, how the invitation of a particular player could change the shape of the team and more educating stuff like that.

But in the case of Nigeria, every time there is a situation like this most people begin to harp on players who were not invited adding insinuations that some underhand dealings could have brought them into the team.

I would rather listen to pundits who tell why they think new players have been brought in, what they think they would add to the team and how the Eagles can be better with them in the team.

I prefer pundits who would tell me what the Eagles will miss by the absence of a particular player through injury or suspension and how they think the coach can tweak his formation to carter for that loss than cast aspersions on the coaching crew because their favorite player was not invited.


Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Lille FC, France); Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel); Chigozie Agbim (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria)

In Vincent Enyeama, Nigeria has one of the best goalkeepers in the world (and this is judging strictly from his form this season).

It is still November and his club, Lille, not near the best in France where he plays but he has comfortably kept 10 clean sheets this season including a 2-0 over big spenders, Monaco.

Just two years ago, lots of Nigerians thought Enyeama should be dropped because he was not first choice at Lille. Maybe Keshi knew what he saw in the keeper to stick with him.

Austin Ejide remains 2nd choice keeper and then Chogozie Agbim of local side, Rangers.

Personally, I would have loved to see a keeper like Okiemute Odah of Warri Wolves, Theophilus Afelokhai of Kano Pillars or even Augustine Brown of Dolphins, but the last time I checked Stephen Keshi was coach of the team and China Acheru, just a football blogger.

Defenders: Elderson Echiejile (Sporting Braga, Portugal); Benjamin Francis (Heartland FC, Nigeria); Efe Ambrose (Celtic FC, Scotland); Solomon Kwambe (Sunshine Stars, Nigeria); Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor FC, Turkey); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves, Nigeria); James Okwuosa (Chippa United, South Africa); Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea FC, England)

The only new, addition (not so new anyway) in the defence of the team is Kenneth Omeruo is is just returning from a shoulder injury.

Yes, he has started training with the Chelsea U21 side and he has also had a game or two under his belt but people think he is not fit enough to be called up.

Benjamin Francis, Solomon Kwambe and Azubuike Egwueke (In pic) all play in the Nigerian League and are perhaps three players most Nigerian critics will point to and say should not be invited or say they have no business in the team.

If Stephen Keshi did not stand his ground there is a possibility that the world would not have heard of Godfrey Oboabona by this time.

Having said that, critics have argued that there are better defenders in the Nigerian League.

Actually, critics think there are better defenders in the Nigerian League. I have watched at least two League games a week for the last five seasons and I think that players like Bright Esieme (Enyimba), Ogbonna Nelson (Heartland), Chinedu Udoji (Enyimba) and Mutui Adegoke (Shooting Stars) deserve a chance in the Eagles.

But I have decided to think out of the box.

Why does Keshi maintain Oboabona and Omeruo in central defence and does not bother much about Joseph Yobo's return for now?

That may just be because, Efe Ambrose who plays in right back is actually a center back and plays that role with his club, Celtic.

Maybe in case of an injury, Keshi knows that Ambrose can be drafted to central defence but who fills in at right back.

Ogenyi Onazi and Fengor Ogude can fill in at Right Back but isn't it time the team go for a natural full back? From the home league?

Bright Esieme and Mutui Adegoke are two full backs who need a shot at that national team shirt and maybe Mutui of all people should give Elderson Echiejile a run for his money.

There is also Azubuike Egwueke who has taken a lot of flak from Nigerians every time he plays but I think he just needs more games, maybe against smaller sides to get his confidence back.

I started watching the Nigerian National team from the 1983 Olympic Games Qualifying match against Morocco and between then and now there is one central defensive partnership I believe to be the best.

No its not Stephen Keshi/ Okechukwu Uche or Uche/ Chidi Nwanu. It's not even Uche/ Taribo West but the one between Stephen Keshi and Sunday Eboigbe that held sway from sometime in 1984 to 1988.

Stephen Keshi was intelligent, a ball playing center back and had the brilliance of a defending midfielder while his partner, Sunday Eboigbe was mean, big and strong.

Eboigbe He had limited skills apart from win the ball and let either Keshi or the likes of Austin Igbinabaro (at NNB) or Muda Lawal (at the Eagles) do the business for him thereafter, but as a man marker, Eboigbe was top notch.

He was like the Nigerian version of Jurgen Kohler or Claudio Gentile, and had a reputation for his hard tackling game.

The first day I saw Egwueke at the Eagles I thought Keshi wanted to remake his former partner in defence, Eboigbe but so far the Warri Wolves man has not wowed fans with his performances.

But Stephen Keshi knows why he keeps bringing him in. maybe, after a few games at the Championship For African Nations, CHAN in January, Egwueke will be ready to face the world.

Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea FC, England); Victor Moses (Liverpool FC, England); John Ogu (Academica de Coimbra, Portugal); Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio, Italy); Nnamdi Oduamadi (Brescia Calcio 1911, Italy); Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis, Spain); Sunday Mba (Enugu Rangers,  Nigeria); Reuben Gabriel (Kilmarnock FC, Scotland)

Nigerians have cried out for Joel Obi to be back into the team while some feel that Lukman Haruna deserves a shot at national team action.

And while they have cried out for Haruna in the team, a lot want John Ogu out.

John Ogu is not actually having a flourishing club career but he has not done badly in the few games he played with the Eagles.

Though bigger, he reminds me of Thompson Oliha of the late 80s and 90s, a trojan in the midfield.

But how can he get a regular playing time in the team? He has to displace John Mikel Obi (who probably goes home with his jersey) and Ogenyi Onazi who is already Nigeria's favourite kid.

And with Keshi sticking to a 4-3-3, Ogu remains back up for Obi and Onazi or he fights for a place as creative midfielder in front of the two.

In that case he fights to displace Sunday Mba (who has already been displaced), Nosa Igiebor and Nnamdi Oduamadi who has been used in that role twice in recent times.

Otherwise, every good team needs a strong back up plan and Ogu can be one for the Super Eagles. He has to watch out anyway as Rueben Gabriel is back in the team.

If Keshi decides to play three hard tacklers as his three midfield men as he did at the start of AFCON 2013, the Ogu could have a shot at a starting shirt, but if the coach continues with one of the midfielders as the creative force up there, then Ogu remains a back up, at least for now.

Rueben Gabriel was the most promising of Keshi's Eagles at the start of 2012. He is a Patrick Vieira kind of player with more speed.

Then there is also the bullish Fengor Ogude who could be recalled at anytime as well as Joel Obi who Nigerians want in the team.

I believe the Eagles have it covered in midfield.

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kyiv, Ukraine); Shola Ameobi (Newcastle United, England); Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce FC, Turkey); Obinna Nsofor (Lokomotiv Moscow, Russia); Uche Nwofor (SC Heerenveen, The Netherlands)

Nigerians want Osaze Odemwingie back. Nigerians also want Ike Uche, Kalu Uche and Victor Anichebe's return to the team.

Then most Nigerians still do not understand what Shola Ameobi does in the team while Brown Ideye has been criticized for turning himself into the Super Eagles' modern day "Mr. Miss it"

I think Shola Ameobi is an older version of Emmanuel Emenike and is a good squad player.

Speaking to Ameobi he says he is happy to eventually get his chance to be an international and says Keshi sees him as a player that could help the team on and off the pitch especially with his age and the fact that Nigeria has a really young team.

Anichebe has to decide to want to play for Nigeria and he could be a good back up plan but for the players invited, it is obvious that Keshi will stick to his "Big man upfront" tactic which is Emmanuel Emenike (In pic).

Uche Nwofor proved in that game against South Africa that he could be a "fox in the box" for the team but the strikers may not be effective unless they get balls from the midfield.

Stephen Keshi has ninety minutes to write his name in gold and enters the home leg with a 2-1 advantage so things can't be rosier for him.

The Eagles may well fly to Brazil and after that, with friendly games played, more players could just sneak in to the team, but for now I stand with Keshi on his team selection.

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  1. I pretty much agree with you on just about everything including a sway to the notion of having odemwingie back. No matter his previous doesn't change the fact that he adds flair to the options we have upfront, a tireless worker and quite nifty too. Good Read.

  2. Nice one Mr China, I think you have everything rightly said.., my only area of. Interest would be that of our full backs, we don't seem to have enough replacements there especially the left full back position

  3. Agree with you on this China! As long as Keshi keeps winning us games then his decisions should not be questioned. Yea, Bright Esieme could be a good cover for Ambrose. The guy moves back forth and back with such ease. Mutui? The guy is about Taiwo's age biko! Keshi could as well call back the "Tornado".lol... Another great piece

  4. Nice analysis. I will also stick with Keshi's list. He has shown that I can trust his instincts.