Finally, Sunday Oliseh released his first Super Eagles list of Europe-based players Monday, and there were some surprise omissions and also inclusions. Chelsea duo, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses, were conspicuously missing while Haruna Lukman and Wolvehampton Wanderers goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme, were surprise inclusions as no one thought they were on the radar of national team selectors.
Having named the players, let’s examine what’s good with the list, and what doesn’t appear the best judgement of the former super Eagles captain.
Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Lille OSC, France); Carl Ikeme (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England)
Defenders: Leon Balogun (FSV Mainz 05, Germany); Kingsley Madu (AS Trencin, Slovakia); Godfrey Oboabona (Caykur Rizespor, Turkey); William Troost Ekong (FK Haugesund, Norway); Kenneth Omeruo (Kasimpasa SK, Turkey).
Midfielders: Joel Obi (Torina FC, Italy); Izunna Ernest Uzochukwu (FC Amkar Perm, Russia); Obiora Nwankwo (Coimbra FC, Portugal); Lukman Haruna (Anzhi Machatsjkala, Russia); Rabiu Ibrahim (AS Trencin, Slovakia).
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Emem Eduok (Esperance ST, Tunisia); Emmanuel Emenike (Al Ain, UAE); Anthony Ujah (Werder Bremen, Germany); Sylvester Igboun (FC UFA, Russia); Moses Simon (KAA Gent, Belgium)
Carl Ikeme – A wanderer’s journey to the Eagles
Carl Ikeme’s resume reads like a wanderer’s expedition. He has kept goal for no less than eight teams since 2004 but has never played in the English top tier even though he was part of the Wolverhampton Wanderers team that were relegated in the 2009/10 season. His inclusion in Oliseh’s list would have raised some eyebrows but at over six foot, he has some presence that most Europeans want in their goalkeepers. Whether he will be able to push Vincent Enyeama for a starting place is another matter.
Izunna Uzochukwu – A battler gets his due
One thing you can be sure of from Uzochukwu is that he will give more than the expected 100%. Though not blessed with so much skill and flair, he adequately makes up with a battling quality that has seen him move from Midtjylland of Denmark, the 25-year-old finally won a move to Amkar Perm in the Russian premier league. He will surely bring much needed energy into Oliseh’s team if he is chosen to play.
Sylvester Igboun – A striker stakes a claim
Another Midtjylland product. The striker spent seven years in Denmark but has moved to Russia to play for FC Ufa. While he played with Midtjylland, he scored 41 goals in 147 league appearances. And in four matches since joining Ufa, the 24-year-old has scored one goal. He will nevertheless be a good competition for Anthony Ujah, who will also be looking to stake a claim to the No. 9 position against the bragging rights of the returning Emmanuel Emenike.
The return of the ‘Apache’
Lukman Haruna is a good midfielder, compared with the ones that have been invited over the period that he has been sidelined. His exclusion was one question that the team’s former coach Stephen Keshi was never able to give a reasonable answer to. But he now gets his chance once again after changing clubs in Ukraine. This could be his last tilt at fulfilling his unquestioned talent.
The ones who missed out
Mikel Obi and Victor Moses will not be too concerned about being left out because of their current inactive spell at Chelsea. The message from the new coach is loud and clear: you will not be called if you are not playing.
Others like Efe Ambrose might have been left out because of a technical deficiency that has become very apparent of late though it could just be a phase or the inevitable ageing process.
Meanwhile, why was Obiora Nwankwo recalled and Anderson Esiti was not called? Why Moses Simon instead of Kelechi Iheanacho?
Oliseh will have his reasons – valid for him and maybe invalid for his critics, but the buck stops at his table and he has the responsibility. He said in his hangout on Monday that no player will be discriminated against and that his choice of starting shirts will not be determined by the location of the league. So, though there will always be questions and the fact that not everyone will be satisfied with the list, he has the call to make.
For now, we will hold our peace as the Eagles start preparation for the clash with Senegal next month and then the prognosis will be delivered. But till then let everyone be calm – a new regime has just kicked off.