Brazil 2014: Profiling Nigeria’s strikers

Emmanuel Emenike

Keshi has several critics in the choice of the forwards selected.


Games of football are decided by goals scored and for Coach Stephen Keshi to travel to Brazil with as much as eight forwards compared to teams like Germany, who named just one striker in their 23-man squad, the Big Boss definitely has something under his shelves.

However, Keshi has several critics in the choice of the forwards selected.

The Big Boss has been faulted for overlooking top guns like Ike Uche, Brown Ideye, Chinedu Obasi and even Obafemi Martins who all are churning out commendable performances for their respective club sides.

The Big Boss has defended his choice and it is time for the selected ones to prove their mettle as they go against opposing defenders in the coming days at the Mundial.

Victor Moses (Chelsea, 22years, 23caps)

Having been condemned to a bench role at Liverpool all through last season, Moses has the chance to show the world that he is not a bad player and still possesses the deft touches and skills that saw Chelsea splash millions of Pounds to bring him from Wigan to London.

Having enjoyed a blissful outing in South Africa where he was in the Nigeria team that won a third African title last year, Moses will be keen to drop his club worries and re-enact another good show in Brazil

Moses, who has previously stared for England at the junior level, was a more prominent figure in Stephen Keshi’s squad for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, playing in six of the country’s matches as the Super Eagles kept their momentum to reach Brazil 2014.

Like many of his compatriots, Moses is at a turning point in his career and will be looking to catch the world’s attention with his display in Brazil.

Shola Ameobi (unattached, 32 years, 7 caps)

After years of flirting with the possibility of playing for the Three Lions, the English National Team, Ameobi finally threw in his lot with Nigeria at the age of 31. The Brazil World Cup is the first tournament with Nigeria having refused to honour the call-up handed to him at the eve of the last Nations Cup in South Africa

Born in Zaria, he moved to England aged five and won 20 caps for England at Under-21 level.

Ameobi only started playing for the Super Eagles in late 2012, coming on as a late substitute in Nigeria’s 3-1 victory against Venezuela in the United States.

The former Newcastle man, now unattached, will hope he could sell himself at a big stage like the World Cup and should translate to a good performance for Nigeria to the delight of Coach Keshi who has often talked of Ameobi’s qualities on and off the pitch.

Michael Uchebo (Cercle Brugge, 24 years, 4 caps)

The Belgium based fair-skinned forward is one of the ‘controversial’ inclusions in the Nigeria squad set to compete in Brazil

Uchebo started his career with Nigerian club, Enugu Rangers, before being scouted by Dutch club, VVV Venlo, with whom he signed a three-year contract in 2010. He soon became an influential player in the team and achieved near cult-status with the fans in 2012 when he scored a late winner in a relegation play-off to keep the club in the top flight.

Uchebo, who had been on trials with Stoke City and Rangers, transferred to Belgian club, Cercle Brugge, in 2012.
In Belgium the 24-year-old established himself in the first team and he was rewarded with a call-up for Nigeria’s friendly against Mexico in March this year. After keeping his place for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals squad, Uchebo said that the Super Eagles could be the surprise package in Brazil.

Uchebo scored one of the goals in the Super Eagles 2-2 draw against Scotland; which for now his is only goal for the national team.

Peter Odemwingie (Stoke City, Age 32; 61 Caps)

Now termed a ‘born-again’, the Stoke City forward will be glad to do all the talking on the pitch and not on social media (twitter) where he earned himself a bad tag for openly questioning his exclusion from the AFCON 2013 team.

Indeed Odemwingie confessed that it was good to be back in the national team set-up after close to two years absence.

Amongst others, the Nigerian soccer fans played a pivotal role in Odemwingie’s return to the Eagles and they will be waiting to be paid back with goals aplenty from the skilful forward.

Odemwingie first played for Nigeria in 2002 and captained the side at the finals of the 2010 AFCON before playing at the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa.

He was also an over-age player in the Nigerian side at the 2008 Olympics, where the side lost in the gold medal match against a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina.

Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Age 21, 37 caps)

Formerly with Kano Pillars, Musa topped the headlines after he emerged as the highest goal scorer for a season and also broke a long-standing goals scoring record in the Nigeria Premier League

Popularly called Peugeot more for his fast pace, Musa is rated so highly by coach Stephen Keshi that he was one of just three players in the Super Eagles team that featured in all eight 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil qualifiers.

He also held his own in five of six matches as Nigeria won the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 2013 and played in all three of Nigeria’s matches at last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup.

Reportedly suffering from a slight injury, Musa may not be ready for Nigeria’s first match against Iran on June 16, although officials said he has started training with the team.

Uche Nwofor (Heerenveen, Age 22, 6 caps)

Averaging a goal in every two games for the Super Eagles is the one of the credentials in favour of Nwofor who is one of the back-up forwards in the Nigeria squad.

Given the fact that Nwofor has seen very little playing time in the Dutch Eredivisie this season, his selection for Brazil has been questioned.

Nwofor first made a name for himself with Nigeria’s U-20 side as the Flying Eagles won the Africa Youth Championship in 2011.

He won the top scorer award and was selected for the squad that played in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia in the same year, scoring twice after coming off the bench in a 5-2 victory against Croatia.

At that stage, he had already been capped once at senior level, and last year, he scored twice as the Super Eagles beat South Africa in the Nelson Mandela Challenge. However, he played just once for his country in the qualifiers as the Super Eagles achieved a second successive appearance at the World Cup finals.

Michael Babatunde (Volyn Lutsk, Age 21, 3 caps)

As it has often been the case, his invitation is constantly being debated. While many were surprised he made the 30-man provisional squad, they were more shocked that he made the final 23-man team.

Just as it is now, Babatunde was a surprise choice for last year’s Confederation Cup in Brazil and did not play for Nigeria again until the recent Scotland friendly.

He moved from former Nigerian champions, Heartland FC, to Ukraine three years ago and his stock has continued to rise in the Eastern European League.

The 21-year-old has already spent over three years playing in the Ukrainian top flight, first for FC Kryvbas Kryvyj Rih and since 2013 for Volyn Lutsk.

His impressive performance in the Ukraine did not go unnoticed as the forward was rewarded with a first call-up into the Super Eagles squad for their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil qualifier against Kenya in March last year.

Aware of his critics, Babatunde has vowed to show all what Keshi sees in him that has made him preferred choice despite the dissenting voices.

Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce, Age 27, 23 caps)

Aside the alleged involvement in a Turkey match-fixing scandal that saw him briefly arrested, Emenike is an embodiment of a perfect striker. Indeed so much is expected from the Turkey-based forward in Brazil as Nigeria dreams big at the Mundial.

Since breaking into the Nigerian national team in 2011, Emenike has become a valuable member of the impressive side that Stephen Keshi has built. The striker was one of the stand-out players as the Super Eagles won the Africa Cup of Nations for the third time in their history in South Africa last year and even though he had to miss the final through injury, finished joint top scorer of the competition.

He was not available for Nigeria during the FIFA Confederations Cup and only returned to national team duty towards the end of Nigeria’s 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.

He made an immediate impact though, scoring once as the Super Eagles beat Malawi in a group game and claiming both goals in the vital 2-1 victory in Ethiopia in the play-offs.

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