Note: The official list is now out. Almost made 100% on my prediction save that both Richard Eromoigbe and Ifeanyi Emeghara made the squad while Ayila Yusuf didn't.
I’m a keen follower of the Super Eagles, a statement confirmed by the fact that I hardly ever miss their games. I keep records too, a habit that’ll help me speak fanatically in this post. By the way I did some stuff like this last time around.
To me the best thing about Nigeria’s German born coach Berti Vogts is the frequency with which we now play friendly games, or games at all for that matter. The second best thing about him is his knack for experimentation and his squad selection style which has so far evened the rift between big and small players. Well I guess that should be expected with any new coach. Under Vogts The Eagles have faired thus:
Nigeria vs. Uganda 1-0 (ACN qualifier, 24th March 2007)
Kenya vs. Nigeria 0-1 (B-Grade Friendly, 27th May 2007)
Uganda vs. Nigeria 2-1 (ACN qualifier, 2nd June, 2007)
Niger vs. Nigeria 1-3 (ACN qualifier, 17th June, 2007)
Macedonia vs. Nigeria 0-0 (Friendly, 22nd August 2007)
Nigeria vs. Lesotho 2-0 (ACN qualifier, 8th September 2007)
Mexico vs. Nigeria 2-2 (Friendly, 14th October 2007)
Nigeria vs. Australia 0-1 (Friendly, 17th November 2007)
Switzerland vs. Nigeria 0-1 (Friendly, 20th November 2007)
Vogts is expected to release the official list for next month’s African Cup of Nations (ACN) by the 2nd week of December, but being everyone’s favourite neighbourhood dope man I though I’d let you guys in on the future.
My list is logically drawn from an analysis of the players that have earned caps under Vogts. It’s largely the same squad that Nigeria took to Egypt 2006. There are only 9 new players out of which 2: Yakubu and Olafinjana are not exactly new. Such consistency in squad selection hasn’t been witnessed before in the past 4 African Cup of Nations.
Austin Ejide A long time Eagles reserve keeper who hasn’t seen any action apart from the pre World Cup 2002 build up games, under Vogts Ejide’s time has finally arrived. He looks good to be the goal keeping first choice and possibly will be donning the number 1 jersey this time around. He’s a veteran of two ACNs: 2004 and 2006.
Dele Aiyenugba Prior to Vogts Greg Etafia and Rotimi Sunday were often the benefactors of the absence of The Eagles goal keeping regular. But under Vogts Aiyenugba has become the new back up man. He’s been to one ACN before the 2006 edition and will most likely don the number 12 jersey in Ghana.
Vincent Enyeama Erstwhile Eagles first choice goal keeper Enyeama has failed to see any action in a green shirt after letting in 4 goals in the last Eagles game prior to Vogts. A game in which Vogts watched from the stands! But his experience and skill is not in doubt and he’ll definitely make the squad as goal keeping third choice if like England’s David James he can swallow his pride. A veteran of the 2004 and 2006 ACNs Vincent looks good for a two digit jersey number in Ghana: 23, the same Ghana who with a gift of 4 goals earlier in the year are a team he’d surely love to hate.
Joseph Yobo The Eagles stand in captain has missed the last 6 games but being a consistent performer he looks likely to grab his starting number 2 shirt in Ghana. He played at the 2002, 2004 and 2006 ACNs.
Taye Taiwo The Eagles dependable left back with a knack for scoring goals is a sure first team starter. He’d be holding on to the number 3 jersey he wore at the 2006 ACN.
Danny Shittu Big and Bulky Shittu’s the new craze in central defence after having won Vogts heart. He’ll be pairing Yobo in Ghana donning his coveted number 6 jersey. He has no previous ACN experience.
Rabiu Afolabi Under Vogts Afolabi has finally made the transition from youth International to Senior Team international. He’s paired Shittu in most of the Eagles’ recent games but looks set to drop to the bench at Ghana where he’ll slug it out with Obinna Nwaneri for central defence vacancies. He also has no previous ACN experience but he should be with the number 5 jersey in Ghana.
Obinna Nwaneri The Rugged man of the team looks set to continue from where he stopped in Egypt as a central or right back defensive sub wearing the number 21 jersey.
Onyekachi Apam is following in the foot steps of his youth colleagues like Taiwo, Mikel, Kaita, and Ogbuke who became regulars or had stints in The Eagles. Sporting the number 16 jersey he won’t likely play a major role in Ghana. He too has no previous ACN experience.
Richard Eromoigbe or Ifeanyi Emeghara The final defensive slot will be taken by either of the two. They both might be ACN greenhorns but they’re capable of playing a variety of defensive roles. Either of the two will be with the number 22 shirt in Ghana.
Seyi Olafinjana Makes a return to the team after missing out on the 2006 ACN. He takes back the number 14 jersey which he wore at the 2004 edition.
Ayila Yusuf Seems to have lost his luck of exciting and scoring goals from his defensive midfield position. He gets back his ACN 2006 number 13 jersey but will have to justify a starting place this time around.
Onyekachi Okonkwo Another favoured son of Vogts but who can be both equally disappointing and excellent. Continuing in the same manner and with his inherited number 10 jersey he’ll probably get some playing time in what should be his first ACN.
Dickson Etuhu A late arrival to the Eagles but who has probably done enough in Vogts’ books to win a place in the squad he should be sporting the number 15 jersey in what should be his first ACN.
John Obi Mikel A darling of the Nigerian fans his place in Ghana was never in doubt. But what use Vogts will put him to and his change of shirt number to 18 is open for debate. He’s previously been at the 2006 ACN.
Nwankwo Kanu The experienced hand with 9 lives will be going to his 5th ACN in a row in Ghana but this time as Captain. Still donning the number 4 jersey he’s expected to lead the Eagles beyond the 3rd position this time around.
Obafemi Martins The Eagles own weapon of mass destruction might not be guaranteed a starting number 9 shirt In Ghana but his place as a core member of the team in a 2nd ACN running is not in doubt.
John Utaka Aptly christened Utaka the attacking attacker the number 7 sporting ball juggler is expected to improve on his 2004 and 2006 ACN performances in Ghana.
Osaze Odemwingie Another darling of the Nigerian fans, now sports the number 11 jersey but is still as sharp as ever and has great hopes thrust upon him in Ghana. He was also at the 2004 and 2006 ACNs.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni Has one of the most topsy-turvy Super Eagles career in recent times. But stays relevant due to his club goal scoring luck which has more than a few times rubbed off on him in a green shirt. He gets the number 8 jersey along with a chance to do what he could not do in the 2002 and 2004 ACNs.
Stephen Ayodele Makinwa Unanimously hated by fans but loved by coaches he makes a return to the ACN (with the number 19 jersey) which he first experienced in 2006. With the plethora of strikers in the squad we can’t but wait to see what role he’ll play in Ghana.
Ikechukwu Uche Is the Youngman with the blessings of the fans at the moment. Quick on his toes and exciting in a green shirt he’s the 2007/2008 edition of Julius Aghahowa at his prime. Not surprisingly he’ll be with the number 17 shirt at what will be his first ACN.
Obinna Nsofor Another great ball juggler with youth on his side gets the chance to build on his 2006 ACN baptism but this time donning the number 20 jersey.
Right back Chidi Ordiah and midfielder Christian Obodo are the players that will be most missed in the squad no thanks to the lengthy span of their injuries this year. While midfielder Paul Obiefule will be the player most hurt about not making the squad. He’s been very consistent “on the bench” in the past 10 or so Eagle’s games but getting the chance to play only once or twice during the period.