A yet incomplete Super Eagles on the verge of the World Cup
NPFL By: Imo-owo Mbede | 29/09/2017
Early in October, Nigeria will most probably join world defending Champions, Germany, and at least 8 other countries who have so far qualified, to book a place at Russia 2018 World Cup. Among the already qualified teams are Brazil (perennial favourites) and Belgium. Currently parading what has the looks of a golden generation, Belgium have a team that where Simon Mignolet is back-up for Thibaut Cortouis, and where renowned players like Vincent Kompany, Christian Benteke and Michy Batshuayi do not have starting shirts. Similarly, world stars like Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Willian are not regulars in the current Brazilian side. Names may not always count in the generally unpredictable game of football, but as potential contenders, does the Super Eagles have the players to compete favourably with the quantity of quality available to these teams when it struggles in the absence of Mikel Obi, Leon Balogun and Victor Moses?This question is pertinent because with less than a year to the World Cup, Coach Gernot Rohr’s team to the 2018 World Cup is 60% complete. A close examination will reveal that barring injuries, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Abdullahi Shehu, Uwa Echiejile, Leon Balogun, William Ekong, Wilfred Ndidi, Ogenyi Onazi, John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses, Moses Simon, Oghenekaro Etebo, Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Odion Ighalo have all but sealed their places in the team. Having a standing team in place is actually a good thing, though the Super Eagles’ management will insist that no players’ place is guaranteed; meaning that any player can be displaced by a better one. So is the management ensuring that the team has the requisite quality and depth for the World Cup by deploying only the best players?To do well at the World Cup, a team needs to have quality in depth. A team needs to have a standard starting eleven as well as a backup cast with as much quality. Unfortunately, a careful scrutiny of the team will reveal that the current Super Eagles is still some distance even from an ideal first eleven given the quality of manpower in certain departments. Herein lies the deficiency in Gernot Rohr’s team which must be addressed by digging up further quality to beef up the team. Quality here does not refer to “big names” – which Nigeria obviously does not even have a lot of currently. Quality here refers to players – irrespective of where they play their club football – with various skillsets and experience to meet specific needs in the team. As much as team synergy surpasses individual talent, it is still extremely important to have quality players in a team’s starting eleven, and even more so, on the bench.While they are all very talented – and with due respect to their abilities – Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Dele Ajiboye, Emmanuel Daniel or Dele Alampasu are at best, backups to the ‘world class’ goalkeeper every team is supposed to have at the World Cup. Carl Ikeme was close, but is very unlikely to be available. Kenneth Omeruo, Uche Agbo and the budding Chidozie Awaziem provide only some extent of cover for Leon Balogun and William-Troost Ekong in central defense. Fledgling Tyronne Ebuehi and Ola Aina appear to be the only options at the wing-back positions currently being unconvincingly manned by Shehu Abdullahi and the waning Elderson Echiejile. All these point to an average very sensitive department of the team.