Keshi Relies On Local Players For Nigeria AFCON Qualifier
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has called up a squad of 26 players who play their club football in the Nigerian local leagues for the upcoming 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Chad next month.
The qualifier will take place on June 13 in Kaduna, with the locally-based Super Eagles benefiting from home advantage, to ensure that the qualification campaign begins on a positive note for the Nigerians, who did not qualify for the 2015 edition earlier this year, despite the fact that they were defending champions from 2013.
Chad is not of the same calibre as the Super Eagles, and would not be expected to qualify from their group, but Keshi will know that underestimating any nation in Africa would be a mistake.
He has chosen to rely on players from the Nigerian leagues to produce a victory in their opening qualifier. Warri Wolves keeper Daniel Akpeyi will be a crucial player in this match, as he will likely be the starter in the absence of Vincent Enyeama, and his experience will set him apart from others who are on international duty.
New recruits who will have a chance to win their debut caps for the national team include Sunshine Stars goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Enyimba’s Chinedu Udoji, Michael Egbeta of Warri Wolves, Samuel Olabisi from FC Taraba, and interestingly, Joe Omale of Dekina Dragons, which is a team in the amateur division.
Keshi will be expecting good things from Enyimba striker Mfon Udoh, who is the record-holder for the most goals in a season in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
The next AFCON will take place in Gabon, which was chosen as a replacement for Libya when it became clear that the North African nation would not be a safe destination to host the competition due to political instability and continued social unrest in the country.
The Full Super Eagles Squad:
Goalkeepers: Daniel Akpeyi (Warri Wolves); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Sunshine Stars); Chidiebere Eze (Gabros International)
Defenders: Solomon Kwambe (Warri Wolves); Chibuzor Okonkwo (Gabros International); Idris Aloma (Enyimba); Chima Akas (Sharks); Nelson Ogbonnaya (Heartland); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves); Chinedu Udoji (Enyimba); Samuel Olabisi (FC Taraba); Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars)
Midfielders: Nathaniel Joseph (Sharks); Michael Egbeta (Warri Wolves); Rabiu Ali (Kano Pillars); Esosa Igbinoba (Nasarawa United); Moses Ubong Ekpai (Kano Pillars); Henlong Charles (Giwa FC)
Forwards: Mfon Udoh (Enyimba); Gbolahan Salami (Warri Wolves); Ibrahim Shuaibu (Giwa FC); Joe Omale (Dekina Dragons); Stanley Dimgba (Warri Wolves); Ezekiel Mbah (Kano Pillars); Onoriode Odah (Enugu Rangers); Azeez Shobowale (Kano Pillars)
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