Nigeria fondly called the Super Eagles by their fans in the continent and around the world, overcame the toughest African rivals with ease in the qualifying stage. Given the recent past dismal records, it is a bit surprising the smooth manner they qualified for the FIFA World Cup 2018.
They do have their stars like Kelechi Ihieanacho, Alex Iwobi, Victor Moses, and John Obi Mikel who can cause the miracle to happen in their favor. But the team is yet to look confident like the World Cup 2014 squad.
This time it is constituted mostly by the greenhorns, unlike the team which made it to the second round of Brazil World Cup, 2014. But the heroic win against Zambia by 1-0 score has brought them in the form to challenge the toughest rivals in the dead group they are teamed up with.
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Nigerian Confirmed World Cup Squad
Nigeria has announced 30 names to be cut down to 23 by June 4. The shaving down of the numbers will be a tough job for Gernot Rohr as there are players and stars who have proved themselves in the respective clubs and for the national teams. But several names will reverberate the humming of the fans of Super Eagle if Rohr doesn’t have a shock in his store.
Goal Keepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba FC), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United, South Africa), Dele Ajiboye (Plateau United), Francis Uzoho (Deportivo La Coruna Spain).
Center Back William Ekong (Bursaspor FC, Turkey), Leon Balogun (FSV Mainz 05, Germany), Olaoluwa Aina (Hull City, England), Kenneth Omeruo (Kasimpasa FC, Turkey),
Full Back: Bryan Idowu (Amkar Perm, Russia), Chidozie Awaziem (Nantes FC, France), Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor FC, Turkey), Elderson Echiejile (Cercle Brugge KSV, Belgium), Tyronne Ebuehi (Ado Den Haag, The Netherlands), Stephen Eze (Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Bulgaria).
Midfielders: Mikel John Obi (Tianjin Teda, China), Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor FC, Turkey), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England), Oghenekaro Etebo (UD Las Palmas, Spain), John Ogu (Hapoel Beer Sheva, Israel), Uche Agbo (Standard Liege, Belgium), Joel Obi (Torino FC, Italy), Mikel Agu (Bursaspor FC, Turkey).
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City England), Moses Simon (KAA Gent, Belgium), Victor Moses (Chelsea FC, England), Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai, China), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, FC England), Junior Lokosa (Kano Pillars), Simeon Nwankwo (Crotone FC, Italy).
They all enjoy the full support of the coach with the utmost gravity on Ikechukwu Ezenwa. He has bagged 24 caps and is backed by the credit of plying his trade with Enyimba in his motherland. Daniel Akpeyi will second him who hailed from Chippa United in South Africa.
Next in the line would be Francis Uzoho preferred over to Dele Ajiboye. He has a narrow chance to be one of the final 23 if the other three are good for their health and disaster doesn’t follow the course.
The defenders play divided into two zones- Center Back and Full Back. The players who will most likely to book a seat to fly to Russia form the defense are the known faces. They include William Ekong, Leon Balogun, Kenneth Omeruo, Bryan Idowu, Chidozie Awaziem, Abdullahi Shehu, Elderson Echiejile, and Tyronne Ebuehi.
Defenders with mentionable credentials are – Leon Balogun backed by 14 Bundesliga appearances in this season, Brian Idowu of Bursaspor scored in the recent friendly match against Argentina, Elderson Echiejile the most experienced in the squad with 60 caps in his bag and the young Kenneth Omeruo a very popular player earning 36 caps to make it for Russia.
The most composite and solid part of FIFA World Cup 2018, Nigeria is its midfield. The first name in this regard will be the very captain John Obi Mikel who has the longest presence in the center midfield with sacks of international experiences.
Along with the captain, the midfield will be a solid ground for the super eagles backed by Wilfred Ndidi, Ogenyi Onazi, Oghenekaro Etebo, Joel Obi, John Ugo, Mikel Agu. All the co-fielders of the captain have their caps in their bag to be the worthy assistant of their leader. The midfield is the strength where the Eagles may count on.
Supported by a composite midfield, the attackers in the forward zone are able enough to break any defense. The forward ranks of the Nigerian squad hailed from the English clubs.
The first name of the attacking ranks will be Alex Iowbi who came to the fore by scoring the qualifying goal for the Russian Big Soccer Tournament.
He will be backed by Kelechi Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa – two team-mates in Lichester City. Both have scoring records in the club and country level. Victor Moses and Odino Ighalo are the two other magic names to shake the opposition defense boosted by their country and club goal score.
The good sign is that the scorers are getting more attacking with time rolling towards the big Football Month in June.
Nigeria World Cup 2018 Fixture
The match fixture may cast a pale shadow on the faces of the super eagle fans. They will face the two formidable warriors- on 16th June, Croatia and 26th June, Argentina. The match schedule goes:
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- Saturday, June 16 – Nigeria v Croatia – Kaliningrad
- Friday, June 22 – Nigeria v Iceland
- Tuesday, June 26 – Nigeria v Argentina
Who will change the game?
With Victor Moses and Alex Iwoba in the attacking ranks, who other can win the credit of the game makers or changers?
But the defending bulwark Leon Bulagon and the rock-solid orchestrator in the midfield John Obi Mikel have a fair chance to impact the direction of the game in their favor.
Predictions are bound to be in favor of Nigeria if you limit it only for the stepping over the group boundary. They have a fair chance, and this is even over Iceland and Croatia gave their FIFA performance and appearances.
But it is dismal ahead of the second round if the younger recruits of the squad can’t stand fit for the veterans and Victor Moses, Alex Iwoba, and Kelechi Iheanacho don’t deliver.