Victor Osimhen selected for Nigeria’s AFCON qualifiers but controversy surrounds Super Eagles squad
Jose Peseiro’s first Nigeria squad for a competitive game under the leadership of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Ibrahim Musa Gusau has provided an inkling into the direction of the new board while also stirring selection controversies.
Peseiro named a 23-man Super Eagles squad for the second time in a row under the new leadership, after the international friendly against Portugal in November. That was the first game for the A team after the NFF elections in September.
Peseiro had previously consistently named 25-man squads, composed mostly of Europe-based players, but a senior member of the NFF board told ESPN that the coach was now under direction to call-up no more than 20 players from Europe, and the remainder must come from the domestic league
“We cannot afford to invite so many players from Europe any more because we need to be very judicious in our use of the limited funds we have,” the board member said. “Peseiro can call as many players as he wants, but only 20 can come from abroad. If he needs any more, he should get them from the local league.”
That restriction has seen the Portuguese name three players from the domestic league, including two goalkeepers and a defender from the under-20 team. Going forward, this is expected to be the norm, with local players expected to become more prominent in future squad selections
“The president wants to make sure that the local league players are recognized in the Super Eagles, and this will be one way to help strengthen the league and make it more attractive,” the board member said.
The selection choices have seen the coach come under fire, however.
Goalkeeper Kingsley Aniagboso of Nigerian second-division club Giant Brillars was called up ahead of a host of Nigeria Premier League players, but his selection is not as controversial as that of Daniel Bameiyi. The under-20 defender has not had the best of the last year. Originally called up to the Olympic team, his performance in the first leg against Tanzania was so insipid that he was dropped for the return leg.
Bameiyi was then named Nigeria captain for the CAF Under-20 AFCON, but he was largely anonymous during the tournament.
Like Aniagboso, the defender’s club has also raised concerns: he plays for Yum Yum FC, an academy outside the Nigerian league system.
Controversy also surrounds Peseiro’s foreign-based call ups, with nine of the 23 players from the squad that faced Portugal not selected this time. Among the biggest casualties are vice-captain William Troost-Ekong, goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, in-and-out defender Tyronne Ebuehi, midfielder Peter Etebo, and forward Emmanuel Dennis.
Among the replacements, returning captain Ahmed Musa played barely 16 minutes of club football in March. Joe Aribo has not played in five games for Southampton and has been training with the under-23s. Paul Onuachu is barely any better. Wilfred Ndidi, once one of the most reliable players for both club and country, has seen very restricted appearances this season, starting just once in Leicester City‘s past five games and not making it onto the pitch in two. Defender Kenneth Omeruo has only just returned from injury.
The exclusion of in-form Gift Organ has only served to exacerbate the situation, especially after the forward scored the fastest hat trick in European competition in the UEFA Conference League a day after the list was announced.
Nigeria, who lead their Africa Cup of Nations qualifying group with six points from six, after their defeats of Sierra Leone and Sao Tome e Principe, face a double header against second-placed Guinea-Bissau, who are on four points. The first game is played in Abuja on March 24, with the second three days later in Bissau.
Nigeria Super Eagles Squad
Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (AC Omonia, Cyprus), Victor Sochima (Rivers United), Kingsley Aniagboso (Giant Brillars)
Defenders: Semi Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England), Bright Osayi-Samuel (Fenerbahce, Turkey), Kevin Akpoguma (TSG Hoffenheim, Germany), Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes, Spain), Calvin Bassey (Ajax Amsterdam, Netherlands), Daniel Bameyi (YumYum FC), Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal),Bruno Onyemaechi (Boavista, Portugal)
Midfielders: Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England), Frank Onyeka (Brentford, England), Alex Iwobi (Everton, England), Joe Aribo (Southampton, England)
Forwards: Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England), Ahmed Musa (Sivasspor, Turkey); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal, Spain), Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France), Ademola Lookman (Atalanta, Italy), Terem Moffi (Nice, France), Victor Osimhen (Napoli, Italy), Paul Onuachu (Southampton FC, England)
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