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Posted by Kingsley Okiwelu on 05/31/2010

The final squad list of the Super Eagles for the mundial has just been released, throwing up a couple of surprises and generating no small measure of controversy.

Out of Lagerback’s initial 30 players, seven players were dropped. These included, as perhaps was to be expected the two home based players, goalkeeper Akpan Bassey and defender Terna Suswan. Also left out of the party were defender Onyekachi Apam, and forwards, Peter Utaka, Brown Ideye, Victor Anichebe and Ike Uche.

As I have stated earlier, it was perhaps understandable that the home based players could not make the list.The goalkeeping department of the Super Eagles has remained pretty stable for some time now and In Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide and Dele Aiyenugba, Lagerback can count on three experienced campaigners and shouldn’t have any problems. Terna Suswan put up an assured, confident performance in his debut against Saudi Arabia but perhaps it was felt that he lacked enough experience of matches at this level and his exclusion can be explained. For Peter Utaka and Brown Ideye, there simply wasn’t sufficient time for them to make any kind of impact( Ideye only arrived the Eagle’s camp on the eve of the match against Colombia) and so Lagerback’s decision to exclude them can also be easily justified. Onyekachi Apam was seemingly unable to shake off the lingering effects of an injury he recently picked up and on that basis,his absence is also explainable even though one would have thought that his ability to play both as a centre back and a right back might have given the technical crew some pause considering the slight paucity of options in both those positions with the Super Eagles.
However, if , as it seems likely, Lagerback’s intention was only to prosecute the world cup with players who are fully fit, his exclusion is also understandable.

What has caused the greatest consternation, however, is the rationale behind the Swede’s decision to leave out two of the team’s potentially most lethal striker’s in Ike Uche and Victor Anichebe as well as the decision to include players like John Utaka and perhaps Nwankwo Kanu. While I’m an ardent fan of Nwankwo Kanu, the truth of the matter is that his best years, to all intents and purposes are definitely behind him. His ability to come off the bench and occasionally turn a game on its head could have counted in his favour, but if he is to spend the duration of the World Cup as a non-playing captain, his inclusion on the Roster is to say the least, rather perplexing. Even if his role is largely to be that of an elder statesman of the team, providing leadership and helping to build team unity, one would have thought he could still have played this role without necessarily being a member of the playing staff. As for John Utaka, I’m completely at a loss. He’s contributed next to nothing at Portsmouth this season and his inclusion on the initial 30 man roster was one of the few,if not the only reason for raised eyebrows. This, added to the fact that he offered absolutely nothing when he came on as a substitute in the games against Saudi Arabia and Colombia means that bemusement is the only response I can offer to his being on the list.

Like I stated earlier before I began to digress, the decisions that have caused the most consternation have been the exclusions of Victor Anichebe and Ike Uche. Uche was Nigeria’s highest goal scorer in the course of the qualifiers before a horrific injury kept him out of the Eagles campaign at the Cup of Nations as well as virtually the entire season for his club side. However, he had begun to make a good recovery and while no one is saying he could have been 100% fit he would have provided some much needed invention and pace to a Super Eagles team that often seems bereft of ideas. Anichebe’s absence was also a bit of a surprise considering that he was one of the few bright spots in the match against Saudi Arabia and seemed capable of providing some options either in Attack or on the left side of midfield. His non-inclusion wouldn’t have been such a big deal however, if it wasn’t for the inexplicable inclusion of a player like John Utaka.

On the bright side, however, the Eagles showed quite a bit of improvement in the course of their match against Colombia. There seemed to be marked improvements in their will for the battle, cohesion and organization when compared to the game against Saudi Arabia. The passing and movement also seemed to have returned to the Nigerian game and there was a much more evident desire by the players to play for each other. For once, the entire team defended as a unit thus making the job of defending much easier for the defenders. They in turn were more able to join in and plug any leakages from midfield before serious incursions developed since they seemed confident in the abilities of their colleagues to cover for them.

The performances of Haruna Lukman and Sanni Keita were also very gratifying on an individual level. Lukman is providing quite the buzzing, positive and incisive edge to a Super Eagles midfield that had become too pedestrian and predictable. His confidence and bravado as well as the fact that he’s much more inclined to give penetrating passes to supply the Eagles Forwards are providing the best indication that perhaps we have finally found someone who can come close to filling the Out sized boots left by the inimitable Jay Jay Okocha. How Lagerback can combine his undeniable talents with those of John Obi Mikel, it remains to be seen, but it’s becoming clearer that he may just be the key to unlocking the Eagles attacking potential at this and future World Cups.

If there was a source of lingering concern and this hasn’t been helped by Lagerback’s selection, it has been the lack of options for the Super Eagles in the final third. Yakubu Aiyegbeni continues to be the focal point of the Eagles attack, but as has been noted severally, in the past he has generally flattered to deceive whenever he dons the Colours of his national team. Obafemi Martins continues to huff and puff and generally threaten to unleash the flood gates but his goal conversion rate continues to be a source for concern. Osaze Odemwingie always gives his all for the cause, but he too is hardly a prolific goalscorer and has always been more effective operating from a wider role with the National team rather than from the more central, second striker position that Lagerback seems to favour.

All in all, there’s still room for some cautious optimism but I rather feel Lagerback has made his first but hopefully not fatal missteps at the helm of the Super Eagles.


Posted by Oseh Jeffrey on 06/01/2010

It is a known fact that not all the invited players will make it to the world cup and i still believe that our team is not just going there to give away points easily to their opponent.The tradition of showing respect to tired legs in the team like KANU, YAKUBU, UTAKA and unimpressive YOBO should stop if our game will grow;instead of the NFF and the coaching crew to come out plain they tried deceiving us on experience.if you are good at something you are good and will do better than someone who claims to have experience but is no longer fit and able to perform.I still wonder what Shittu is doing in that team when he is match rusty,heavy and unfit to stop the pacy and energetic TEVES,DI MARIAS.MESSIS,J.S PARK.I hope for the best but we should not expect any miracle from them as i see them already rushing and packing their belongings back home after first round.

Posted by Anonymous on 06/02/2010

Nice analysis,keep it coming.

Posted by teewai on 06/02/2010

Nice analysis,keep em coming!

Posted by Abdulmumuni salawu on 06/02/2010

I think the coach did a wonderful job in his selection at the defencive area but he make greatest mistake in the choice of his striking position to pick yakubu ahead of anichebe and Ike becous a half fit of ike is far better than yakubu

Posted by Ndeke Chibuike on 06/02/2010

I feel John Utaka and Kanu Nwankwo's inclusion in this World Cup team is a minus to us as a nation. Anichebe and Ideye would do better than these old horses.. For crying out loud.. they're old and worn-out! I wish the team all the best.. but the two mentioned may likely not play a game.

Posted by Ugochukwu on 06/02/2010

I understand the selection of Kanu, Utaka, Yobo,Yakubu and Martins. You don't always go to the world cup with boys no matter how talented. Messi, then 19, remained on the bench while Argentina lost on penalties to hosts, Germany in 2006. Utaka has been showing showing good form in the EPL and FA in the last weeks of the English football season. Martins is a gifted player who on his day will deliver the goods like he did so well in Kenya during the qualifiers. Kanu has the guile to open up defences and win free kicks. Yakubu should play well under a good European coach as he plays like a typical EPL centre forward. These fellows have the experience to perform on the highest level.Still feel sorry for Anichebe, but his time will come.

Posted by Karl ifeanyi obinta on 06/02/2010

Misfiring Aiyegbeni should justify his inclusion ahead of Ik Uche and would have been more honourble if kanu had allowed pacy and youthful players though half fit to represent Nigeria.

Posted by Busari lateef on 06/02/2010

The list is not bad but only feel 4 just 2 playes both ike uche and apam.i understand that uche's issue is due to his long time injury but for apam i never no what went wrong.he good defender

Posted by chuka on 06/04/2010

like you rightly said, utaka and nwankwo should not have been included. Maradona, Dunga as well as Capello left out players to the dismay of football lovers and they did so for genuine reasons. What is different here is that replacements are equally capable. Nigeria will begin to do well when the old war horses are given a send forth and new exciting players introduced.

Lagersback has no blame, coaches preceding him failed to deal with the important issues bordering
unearthing talents and nurturing them in the qualifiers. I only hope Lagersback stays after the world cup. In doing so, we are sure to see a new SE and do away with the old legs.

Posted by Yusuf Ibrahim Modibbo on 06/05/2010

The inclusion of players like Papilo and John Utaka is useless, because they are not fit and cannot contest to fight for trophies like World cup. All what I have is wishing the country all the best in the upcoming World cup campaign. But Lars Lagerback did wonderful job in the selection as he deed by himself.

Posted by AyegbusiExcel on 06/06/2010

I give coach kudos in the area of defenders, but there are barriers in the area of strikers.

Posted by Benjamin Lekwauwa on 06/09/2010

What we need are gingered and aggressive attackers not Nwankwo Kanu, Yakubu and Utaka. Why is NFF so political to he extent of influencing coach Lagerback and telling him who to include and replace. Nigeria for citizenship sake i wish you Goodluck.

Posted by mitchell on 06/10/2010

The Super Eagles I believe will do us proud. AMEN

Posted by Fancydoo on 06/11/2010

I want Nigerians to know that irrespective of Argentine's Messi, Aguero, Milito or Tevez, Nigeria can prevail not by miracle but by hard work. What matters is determination on the side of Nigerian players. Also, we should remember that tis not the name nor individual skills that count but the ability to bring eleven minds together and make it one. "Tis 11 men against 11 men"

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