5th February, 2014
After their impressive performance at the just concluded African Nations Championship, CHAN, staged in South Africa, many soccer fans believed that some home-based Eagles deserve to make Stephen Keshi’s World Cup squad for Brazil 2014.
Nigeria, who came to CHAN for the first time gave good accounts of themselves after defeating Mozambique, hosts, South Africa, Morocco and Zimbabwe to win bronze medal.
Nigerians fans were not surprised when CAF named three players of the team among CHAN 2014 Best XI of the tournament. The players are midfielder Ejike Uzoenyi of Rangers FC, attacker Rabiu Ali of Kano Pillars and defender Kunle Odunlami of Sunshine FC.
Nigeria winger, Uzoenyi, was also named the most valuable player of the tournament by CAF.
The Enugu Rangers star won three consecutive man-of-the match awards and also supplied four assists in the Super Eagles’ 13 goals at the championship.
Ali, who helped Kano Pillars won the Nigeria Premier League last season gave his best for the team. His versatility was well noticed in South Africa and he may be the one of the players Keshi will invite to the national team ahead of World Cup.
Former Nigerian international, Dahiru Sadi, has expressed satisfaction with the performance of Sunshine Stars defender, Kunle Odunlami.
Odunlami played all the matches and crowned his performance as one of the three Nigerians named in the CAF XI of the tournament.
“Odunlami proved that his selection by Coach Stephen Keshi was no mistake. I’m proud of his performance because he’s a national team material,” Sadi told supersport.com.
Sadi, who played professional football for Kon Eeklo in Belgium, stated that Odunlami’s style reminds him of his former teammate in the Super Eagles, Chidi Nwanu.
“Odunlami has the qualities of Nwanu. He’s calculative and even won 90% of aerial balls.
“It’s difficult to see defenders with speed like him. With proper guidance, he will develop into a better defender,” Sadi said to supersport.com.
Odunlami, who joined Sunshine from lower division side, First Bank, last season was a Trojan in the heart of Nigeria’s defence.
A close source to NFF said he will not be surprised if Keshi invite one or two players to camp for World Cup preparation in March. He said some home based players really gave their best and deserve a place in the national team.
“I believe that one or two players can be invited to camp and possibly make it to World Cup. What we saw in South Africa show that there is future for home based players if we properly give them chance. The era of inviting foreign based players to national team is over. I know that Keshi will invite players to camp based on their performance in various clubs,” the source said.
Uzoenyi after receiving most valuable player award stated that the home-based Eagles are equal, if not superior to the foreign-based team, and deserve the shirts to the World Cup.
To Chief Adegboye Onigbinde, FIFA/CAF Instructor, the final decision for any of the players of the CHAN Eagles to make the World Cup squad should be left with keshi who is in charge of the national team without any external influence.
“It is left for the coach whop is in charge to decide who will be invited to the national team for World Cup preparation and those who will make Brazil at the end of the day.
“Keshi is the only person that can decide the fate of the players that will go to the World Cup. I understand that Nigerians are passionate about their Eagles but they cannot decide for Keshi,” said Onigbinde who took Nigeria to the Japan/Korea World Cup in 2002.
Some football fans who spoke to P.M.NEWS Sports believed that two or three home based players can make the World Cup team.