Selection of the right replacement for some of the Super Eagles’ injured players for next month’s scheduled matches is a major headache for Stephen Keshi, chief coach
| By Anayo Ezugwu | May 20, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
WITH a few weeks to next month’s 2014 World Cup qualifiers and Confederations Cup, the challenge ahead of Stephen Keshi, Super Eagles coach remains selection players who would be capable of replacing some superstars who are injured. Players like Emmanuel Emenike, John Ogu and John Obi Mikel are among the players that might miss the games, while the likes of Joseph Yobo, captain of the team, Taye Taiwo, Peter Odemwingie and Victor Anichebe are not in his list.
The team’s busy summer starts with a friendly match against Mexico on May 30, followed by World Cup qualifiers against Kenya and Namibia on June 5 and 12, before opening their FIFA Confederations Cup campaign against Tahiti on June 17, in Brazil.
Some sport analysts have cautioned Keshi not to be over-dependant on the superstars to avoid disappointment. Worried by Nigeria’s over-dependence on Europe-based players especially on Emenike for Nigeria’s goals, Tijani Babangida, former Super Eagles player, has advised that the technical crew of the Super Eagles must find a suitable replacement for the striker ahead of the crucial matches next month.
He said that as a former footballer, a persistent injury always has a lingering psychological effect on a player. “We are in a precarious situation for the World Cup qualifying matches, with the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil also in June. Having won the AFCON early this year, we have to sustain a high standard at the global level. Nigeria is blessed with potentials from where we must find a replacement pending the return of Emenike. Becoming over-reliant on Emenike will equate us to a tag similar to the ‘No Messi, No Barcelona’ that the Catalan giants are currently living with now,” Babangida said.
Garba Lawal, another ex-international, said that the selection of players to represent the country is the sole responsibility of Keshi, adding that he should make sure that he chooses the right players to prosecute the matches. He also urged Keshi to go for players that would be proud to play for Nigeria. “Keshi is the coach and manager of the team and I believe he knows the kind of players he wants to use but whoever he wants to call, we will see how everything goes” he said.
Samson Siasia, former Super Eagles coach, said that the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, should create an enabling environment for the coach to work. He lamented that the current coach is working in a hostile environment. “Keshi lives and works in a hostile environment where the expectations are always high. He was almost fired before he won the Nations Cup title. The coach is not a magician that can continue to win every day. He still needs time to build an even stronger team,” he said, adding that Keshi must be careful in handling his players.
But Keshi has assured sport loving Nigerians that there is no cause for alarm. He said that he was fully focused on leading Nigeria to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil. According to him, the triumph in South Africa was behind him and he will work with his employers to realise the goal of seeing Nigeria in Brazil in next year’s summer. “I am happy to be back and fully ready and focused on the big challenge of qualifying the Super Eagles for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals,” Keshi said.
There are strong indications that Keshi, is considering making a choice between strikers Michael Eneramo and Joseph Akpala to fill the vacuum left by injured Emenike, while Mikel and Ogu are expected to resume training soon, ahead of Nigeria’s heavy schedule of matches next month. Both players have a similar burly physiological make-up and are capable of adding a lethal physical edge to the Super Eagles attack like Emenike did at the Nations Cup earlier in the year.
Keshi has recently come under the spotlight after seemingly falling out with several of his players like Emmanuel Emenike and captain, Joseph Yobo who was subsequently dropped from his list of invited players for the 2014 World Cup qualifying match against Kenya and 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.