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Five Prospects Who May Become Super Eagles Key Players

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The 2019 AFCON ended with a golden bronze for Nigeria, it also was the end of National team football for some players in the Green and White jersey.

Some of the key players who have confirmed their retirement from national team football include, influential midfielder John Mikel Obi and striker Odion Ighalo.

We might have seen the last of the likes of John Ogu and Daniel Akpeyi, both of whom are on the wrong side of 30 and have little or nothing to offer the team again.

Expectedly, the aforementioned players were not on the list for Nigeria’s friendly against Ukraine, the team’s first game since the 1-0 victory against Tunisia in the third place match of the African Cup of Nations in Egypt.

However, this opened space for new players in almost all the positions on the pitch and indeed Coach Gernort Rhor called up fresh faces into the team including Teenage goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye, Rangers Joe Aribo and many other.

In this write up we X-RAY those who have the potentials to become the next big things in Nigerian football.

VICTOR OSIMHEN
AGE: 20
POSITION: Center Forward
CLUB: LOSC Lille

Osimhen broke into prominence at the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile after finishing as the tournament top scorer with 10 goals, a feat which was enough to give Nigeria it’s fifth U17 World Cup trophy.

It wasn’t the number of goals he scored that caught the eye but rather the manner with which he got the goals, his poaching skills and the strength with which he troubled defenders and quickly he got likened to former Chelsea and Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba.

His club career didn’t start on a smooth note with Wolfsburg in Germany but managed to get his first call up into the National team in 2016. Injuries scuttled his chances at first team football and was farmed out on loan severally at Wolfsburg before being released.

Amidst failed trials at Belgian clubsides, Osimhen finally settled at Charleroi before is 19 goals on the 2018/2019 season got him a move to French Ligue 1 side where so far in 5 games has scored five goals. For the national he has only made 6 appearances and 1goal.

Nevertheless, if his performance against Ukraine is anything to go by, his second start for the Super Eagles, then Nigeria has a worthy replacement for Odion Ighalo, with his aerial skills, strength, energy and speed it is hard to see other players like Stephen Odey, Paul Onuachu, Taiwo Awoniyi amongst others to snatch the striking spot.

They may have to be contented with bit part roles for as long as possible.

SAMUEL CHUKWUEZE
AGE: 20
POSITION: Wing Forward
CLUB: Villarreal

Another talent from the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup triumph, Chukwueze just like his colleagues, Victor Osimhen and Kelechi Nwakali were not short of suitors after the competition with Arsenal being one of them although a move couldn’t materialise.

Chukwueze moved to Villarreal in Spain instead and ever since, he has become a revelation, breaking into the squad last season to become ever present in the starting eleven.

His transition into the national team was not as straightforward as Osimhen’s and he was a subject of tussle for Paul Aigbogun, coach of the U20 to the 2019 U20 World Cup in Poland and Gernot Rhor coach of the Super Eagles for the 2019 AFCON in Egypt.

Subsequently, his importance to the Spanish club made the club give the NFF the opportunity of taking him to either of the tournaments and not both. He later joined the Super Eagles for the AFCON where he got a bronze medal after scoring a goal in two appearances at the tournament

Meanwhile, before then his abilities were not hidden and has been touted as one of the best youngsters in the La Liga alongside Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr. His impressive showings against Real Madrid and Barcelona made Nigerian fans wax lyrical about his abilities.

His dribbling skills, speed and first touch are one of his biggest strength (ask Lenglet) although his finishing skills leaves alot to be desired, this he can still improve on as he gets more experienced.

Although, the Super Eagles wings are strong and well loaded at this time, Chukwueze is gradually moving closer to becoming a regular on the starting 11 of the national team.

If his partnership with Samuel Kalu and Victor Osimhen in the friendly against Ukraine was a joy to watch and can only get better as games go by. All in all this means the likes of Moses Simon, Ahmed Musa, Henry Onyekuru will have to do better to get game time on the pitch.

JOE ARIBO
AGE: 23
POSITION: Center Midfield
CLUB: Glasgow Rangers

Two years ago not many would know who Joe Aribo is, but his exploits in Scotland with Steven Gerard’s Rangers would go on to spark interests from the English FA, Scottish FA and the NFF.

Born to Nigerian parents in England, Aribo started professional football at Staines Town before moving to Charlton where his performances were enough to convince Rangers to sign him up.

Aribo who has scored four times this season for Rangers followed up with the opening goal in an interesting 2-2 draw between Nigeria and Ukraine on the 4th minute mark.

His display has made many Nigerian fans tout him to replace Mikel in the national team with his ability to give an attacking pass from a defensive position, strength on the ball, workrate, power and goal scoring.

Though, still eligible to play for England, it will be fool-hardy for the NFF to let him slip back into the hands of the Three Lions.

Nevertheless, he still has to contend with the likes of Ndidi, Etebo and Iwobi in the midfield

ALEX IWOBI
AGE: 23
POSITION: Attacking Midfield
CLUB: Everton

Well being a nephew to one of Nigeria’s greatest footballer is enough for fans to anticipate and expect a whole lot from an individual.

While Alex Iwobi has neither disappointed nor shown half of his uncle’s exploits in the Green & White Jersey but he is definitely on course to having a successful career for the Super Eagles.

He won the hearts of Nigerian fans after choosing Nigeria over the three Lions in 2016, then his goal that sealed the World Cup spot for Nigeria against Zambia in Uyo two years ago endeared him to fans the more.

While this is not about him being related to Jay Jay Okocha, Alex Iwobi’s potentials was enough to convince Everton pay a sum in the region of 40 Million pounds to Arsenal over the course of the summer transfer window to bring him to Merseyside.

Although, he was played on the wings most of the time at Arsenal his original position is in the attacking midfield role where he can use his flair and eye for a defense splitting to create an attack.

He is seen as the best replacement for Jay Jay Okocha in the Super Eagles midfield position but his inconsistency has left a lot to desire. Nevertheless, many believe he will grow into the the attacking midfield position with time and at just 23 years of age, time is still in abundance, on his side.

FRANCIS UZOHO
AGE: 20
POSITION: Goalkeeper
CLUB: Depotivo La Coruna

Vincent Enyeama’s messy retirement from the Super Eagles didn’t give enough time to prepare for his replacement, for a moment Carl Ikeme was seen as the Messiah after stepping into the shoes to become Nigeria’s number one goalkeeper.

However, the 33-year old was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in 2017 and as such put an end to his career, since then the Super Eagles have had three goalkeepers rotate the position without a clear conviction on who was the first choice.

First it was Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Daniel Akpeyi, however after making his debut in Spanish La Liga in October 2017 for Deportivo La Coruna, keeping a clean sheet which earned him an invite to the Super Eagles.

After impressive showings especially in a friendly win over Argentina, he became the team’s first choice at the World Cup although a dip in form and rotation from Gernot Rhor saw him play once at the AFCON this year.

However, with Daniel Akpeyi out of the National team, Uzoho who was a back up to Dele Alampasu at the 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup in UAE is now favorite ahead of Ikechukwu Ezenwa for the number 1 Jersey.

 

 

 

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Daniel is a passionate lover of Nigerian football. Follows local football and the national teams religiously. Aside from writing, he also does Sports analysis on Radio. Write to me on danycrusoe@gmail.com or follow me on twitter@danycrusoe95

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