This is a very young Nigeria squad, with some recognised players not featuring anymore. The likes of Yakubu, Peter Odemwingie and Obafemi Martins were deemed surplus to requirements in the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa earlier this year, and the plan worked, probably even better than the expectations of the nation.
Victory over Burkina Faso in the tournament final has won Nigeria a passage into Confederations Cup, and they have always been the greatest of Africa’s underdogs. Coach Stephen Keshi has taken a prudent approach since their World Cup failure in 2010, and has started almost again with a fresh clean slate of players. It was a gamble, but it has definitely worked so far.
However, you still need experienced heads in this set-up, and one of those is the man between the sticks for Nigeria, Vincent Enyeama.
Enyeama was one of the best goalkeepers in the World Cup finals three years ago. His individual performance against Greece in the group stages was one of the best of the tournament, and it is probably unfair that some would more single him out for failing to hold onto a shot for the Greeks winner that day, scored by Vasilis Torosidis.
Currently playing his club football in Israel for Maccabi Tel-Aviv, on loan from Lille, Enyeama is one of the best shot stoppers in the game, and has been his country’s No.1 for the best part of nine years.
Nigeria’s vice-captain at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, he has strong organisational skills, and is a natural leader for the youthful stars of the Super Eagles to look upto. Don’t be too surprised to see Enyeama challenging the likes of Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas for a place in the team of the tournament come the end of the 2013 Confederations Cup.
When Victor Moses transferred last August from Wigan Athletic to Chelsea, the move was questioned. Surely Moses was swapping guaranteed first team football at the DW Stadium for the bench at Stamford Bridge.
However, Moses has played a much bigger role than anyone could have anticipated. He might have been more of an impact player in the absolute must-win matches, but like Fernando Torres, his best form was saved for the ultimately triumphant Europa League campaign.
He contributed well to Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations success, scoring two goals in the group match against Ethiopia, and he was named in the team of the tournament. Having represented England at all junior levels upto under-21 level, it was surprising that despite being born in Nigeria, Moses elected to stick to his homeland roots.
That is a good thing, as too many players exploit the loophole nowadays to play for another country. Nevertheless, left-sided English players are in short supply, and Moses would have filled the breach for Roy Hodgson just perfectly. He could be described as the one that got away for the Three Lions.
With the ability to play in a number of different positions, a strong powerful shot on him and the awareness to look around for opponents, Moses is probably Nigeria’s best and most recognised player heading to Brazil for the tournament. Jose Mourinho will be taking a closer look at Moses in the next fortnight, as he would be negligent to let a player of his potential ability slip from his grasp.
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