Keshi, Eagles on face-saving mission By Rev Innocent Osuoha

The 2013 Africa cup of Nations (AFCON)  commenced yesterday 19th of January and end on the 10th February 2013. The 2010 world cup host nation, South Africa will play host.

The Nigeria’s Super Eagles team is playing in group C alongside defending champions Zambia, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia, In all, 16 nations are participating and each is aiming to became the African continental champion. For the first time in 26 years, the Super Eagles of Nigeria missed out of the tournament when Gabon and Equatorial Guinea hosted the 28th edition in 2012, Nigerians did not take kindly to this absence and that has been the genesis of the hatred Nigerians have for the Super Eagles team till date. The question now is, can the Super Eagles win back the love of Nigerians to her side. The answer is yes.

The Super Eagles surprisingly returned to the continental scene with an emphatic victory over the lone stars of Liberia on an 8-3 goal aggregate on October 2012 after a shaky two legged encounter against Rwanda. Needless to mention that many coaches that have come and gone before coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi came on board but suffice it to say that for almost a year now, Keshi has been striving to raise a standard team for Nigerians.  Keshi  was captain of the Super Eagles. He has handled the Togo and Mali national teams and based on this background he is hoping to rebuild a side that would emulate his 1994 championship winning team.

Credit must be given to coach Keshi who for the past 12 months has been able to merge the technical skills of the Europe -based players with the enthusiasm of the local players and without mincing words, the players have combined well to form a new Super Eagles that would certainly win back Nigerians to its side.

Initially, Nigerians wondered if Keshi would ever come up with a team given CAF’s deadline, we were in a hurry but also on the 9th of this month Keshi made it and the 23 man squad comprised six home based players in the persons of Chigozie Agbim, Azubuike Egwuekwe, Godfrey Oboabona, Reuben Gabriel, Ejike Uzoenyi and Sunday Mbah.

The foreign based players include John Mike Obi, Victor Moses, Ikechukwu Uche, Ahmed Musa, Brown Ideye and Emmanuel Emenike, Others are captain Joseph Yobo who is playing his sixth African cup of nations finals, Efe Ambrose, Elderson

Echiejile, Juwon Oshaniwa, Kenneth Omeruo who made his marks after his debut against Catalonia and Oborah Nwankwo.

The rest are Ogenyi Onazi, Nosa Igiebor, Fenger Ogude, Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide. In all there are three goal keepers, seven defenders, six midfielders and attackers.

Since the release of this list, reactions have rented the air. We must appreciate the Herculean task before a coach who must trim a 32-man squad to 23. Of course, it has not been easy.

Despite all criticisms against Stephen Keshi he has remained focused and undaunted, It is not surprising, therefore, why some soccer pundits have described the list as Keshi’s best taking cognizance of the fact that he cannot put his job on the line. Granted that the last friendly against Cape Verde ended goalless, one need not be told that the players played preparatory to the D-day.

Many critics believe that the mixture of the home and foreign based players would make for healthy competition when tournament gets underway just as others urge the players to blend fast enough and produce results.

Nigerians should applaud Keshi’s efforts as he uses the experience he had garnered as a player where he led the Super Eagles to victory in 1994 to inspire his Nigerian squad to great heights in South Africa.

Now that the die is cast, as patriotic Nigerians all we have to do is to urge the Super Eagles to go to the battle field and win while we at the rear will remain in prayers -so help us God.


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