Amidst corruption allegations, fresh look at Keshi’s 2014 Super Eagles World Cup squad

Keshi and his technical crew with coach Houdonou standing next to Amokachi
Keshi and his technical crew with coach Houdonou standing next to Amokachi

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil was the fifth appearance by Nigeria at the mundial.

Though the Super Eagles made it to the second round in Brazil, a feat only attained thrice in the country’s history of participation at the Mundial, the squad selected to prosecute the 2014 World Cup has repeatedly been questioned.

Rightly or wrongly, pundits have continued to query Late Stephen Keshi’s selection as there were some perceived big omissions as well as a handful of mediocre inclusions.

The belief in some quarters is that Nigeria would have done better in Brazil had Keshi selected his players on merit.

But all that is now in the history books as Nigeria failed to go beyond the second round in Brazil after losing 2-0 to France.

The Joseph Yobo-led Eagles had settled for a draw against Iran, fell 3-2 to Argentina and laboured to a 1-0 win over Bosnia in their last group match.

PREMIUM TIMES takes a look at what has become of the ‘controversial’ squad especially as allegations of bribery and corruption are popping up from players who claimed they were blocked from the World Cup squad for financial reasons.

While some of the players have moved on to stardom in their careers, others have since called it a day.

Goalkeepers

Vincent Enyeama

He was Nigeria’s goalkeeper at Korea/Japan 2002, South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 World Cup where he gave a good account of himself between the sticks. But conceding the same goal twice is like a dagger in the heart for an international goalkeeper. Looking back at the highlights, he could have done much better with one of the two goals scored by Lionel Messi when Nigeria faced Argentina.

Enyeama has now all but retired from active football after he fell out of favour with then Lille manager Marcello Bielsa. Latest reports indicate he is interested in any deal considered worthwhile even if it means taking up offers in the South African top-flight, among other places.

Enyeama currently runs a business in France and has also given a hint he could consider going into coaching to share with the younger generation his wealth of experience.

Austin Ejide

He never kicked a ball at 2014 World Cup with Enyeama in top form between the sticks. He had 45 caps for Super Eagles and currently plays for Hapoel Hadera FC Israel. His current contract expires in June 2020.

Chigozie Agbim

The goalkeeper is one of the shocking inclusions in the World Cup 2014 team who was in Brazil just to make up the numbers.

Agbim is behind Enyeama and Ejide in the pecking order and it was fondly argued he was never the best in the local league as often projected.

The former Rangers and Warri Wolves FC goalkeeper featured for Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) side Delta Force in 2019/20 season. His contract has since expired at the club.

Defenders

Joseph Yobo

The central defender had to move to Norwich City to boost his chances of making it to his third Mundial after earlier appearances at the 2002 and 2010 World Cups. He was undoubtedly in decline in 2014 after he laboured to command a starting spot in the team with Godfey Oboabona and Kenneth Omeruo seen as heir apparent in the heart of Eagles’ defence. He retired after a loan stint with Norwich and runs a football academy in his name. Now a TV pundit with SuperSport, he was recently named Super Eagles assistant coach.

Kenneth Omeruo

A sterling performance at 2013 AFCON paved the way for this lanky defender in Brazil. Omeruo featured in all Nigeria’s four World Cup matches; showing he was indeed a capable replacement for Yobo in the heart of the defense. Presently playing his club football with FC Leganes in the Spanish Liga, Omeruo is one of the few lads that made it to the Russia 2018 World Cup after the show in Brazil. He is still part of Coach Gernot Rohr’s present Super Eagles set-up.

Juwon Oshaniwa

Preferred above Elderson Echiejile as Eagles left full back, Oshaniwa was another World Cup debutant in Brazil who gave a good account of himself in all four matches played by Njgeria. Oshaniwa joined Hearts FC of Scotland after his exploits in Brazil but struggled to tie down a regular shirt at the club. After a short stint at Nigeria Professional Football League side Akwa United, the hard-tackling defender is currently without a club.

Kunle Odunlami

Keshi’s insistence on including Odunlami in the World Cup squad may not be unconnected with the late gaffer’s flair for players plying their trade in the domestic league. Odunlami never kicked a ball in Brazil, with many questioning his inclusion in the first place. He has since been overlooked by national team coaches and currently plays for Port Harcourt-based NPFL club Rivers United FC.

READ ALSO: NFF issues ultimatum to resolve Gernot Rohr’s contract

Godfrey Oboabona

The 3-2 defeat to Argentina was particularly painful for Oboabona who combined hard work with versatility to checkmate Messi. He had a fairly good performance in Brazil and went on to join Turkish side Caycur Rizespor after the competition. He now plies his trade in Georgia with Dynamo Batumi FC.

Efe Ambrose

He was another sure bet in Keshi’s squad after his sterling performance ensured Nigeria emerged champions 2013 AFCON. Ambrose featured in all Nigeria’s four matches in Brazil. He currently plays for Livingston FC in the Scottish Premiership with a year left in his contract. He also had a successful stint at Hibernian FC.

Midfielders

Ogenyi Onazi

A tearful Onazi being consoled by his teammates after being stretched out against France is one of the enduring images of 2014 World Cup. This AFCON 2013 winner wrestled with then Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and fought like a Trojan to keep France at bay. The French eventually got their breakthrough after Onazi was injured. He was a delight to watch in Brazil where he featured in Nigeria’s four matches. He returned to Lazio after the World Cup and later joined Trabzonspor FC Turkey. His budding career was however slowed down by an Achilles heels tendon injury which has since kept him out of the national team. He was confined to the bench in Russia 2018 World Cup due to dwindling form. He now plays for another Turkish side, Denizlispor FC.

Azubuike Egwueke

This towering central defender was one of the benefactors of Keshi’s homegrown policy. The 30-year-old former Warri Wolves defender was on the bench throughout the tournament but was handed a new deal by Kups of Finland.

He moved on to join SuperSport FC in the South African top flight and was linked with a move to West Ham in the English Premier League. He currently plays for Rivers United FC in the NPFL.

John Obi Mikel

Quite surprisingly, Brazil 2014 was his World Cup debut after injury ruled him out of South Africa 2010 World Cup. Mikel has since drowned his 2014 World Cup sorrow with a gluttonous serving of club trophies. The former Chelsea FC midfield enforcer was instrumental to Nigeria’s qualifications from the group stage at Brazil World Cup. He however succumbed to the French firepower in the second round.

Mikel was Super Eagles’ skipper under Coach Gernot Rohr at 2018 World Cup in Russia where Nigeria failed to go beyond the group stage.

He retired from the national team after the 2019 AFCON in Egypt and later moved to Turkish Superlig side Trabzonspor to team up with his national team mate Ogenyi Onazi.

Relationship broke down between the 32-year old midfielder and Trabzonspor officials after the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in February this year as he opted to be left out of team training and matches for what he called personal safety from the deadly virus. Recent reports claimed some Brazilian clubs are keen on signing Mikel but he is clubless at the moment.

Ejike Uzoenyi

Uzoenyi shed tears of joy after being listed in Keshi’s 23-man list as one of the five home-based players that featured in the 2014 World Cup.

The former Mamelodi Sundowns winger had a taste of World Cup action when he came in for injured Babatunde Michael against Bosnia.

He had a short stint with Bidvest Wits FC of South Africa and was offloaded after he became surplus to requirement.

The CHAN 2014 bronze medalist currently plies his trade in Bosnia with Zvijezda FC.

Reuben Gabriel

Gabriel’s inclusion in the 23-man World Cup list sent tongues wagging but Keshi remained unruffled and was determined to give this midfielder his first taste of World Cup action.

The former Kano Pillars star had his chance against Les Blues after Onazi got injured but his impact was never felt as Nigeria bowed out of the tournament. He is currently without a club after a brief stint with Saudi Arabia side Abha FC.

Ahmed Musa

Musa stood out as one player who was not overwhelmed by the big occasion, following his two goals in Super Eagles 3-2 loss against the Albiceleste of Argentina in the group stage.

Musa continued from where he stopped in 2014 and went on to score another two goals against Iceland in Russia 2018 World Cup.

But his club career nosedived after he struggled at Leicester City. He is still with his Saudi Arabia side, Al Nassr FC, and remains an integral part of the national team, even as retirement from the team beckons.

Osaze Odemwingie

Known for his resilience, Odemwingie fought his way back to Super Eagles after a well-reported rift with Keshi.

Odemwingie played all four matches and scored Nigeria’s only goal against Bosnia. With 11 goals in 63 matches for Nigeria, Osaze has since retired from football and now lives in UK.

Emmanuel Emenike

Emenike was not at his best in Brazil 2014 World Cup where he failed to replicate the form that saw him emerge as AFCON 2013 highest goal scorer with four goals.

He failed to find the net in Brazil as his relationship with Keshi fell from bad to worse. He retired from the national team and joined Olympiakos of Greece in 2018. He is currently without a club after a brief stint with KVC Westerlo of Belgium.

Victor Moses

Much was expected of this Chelsea winger after his sterling performance ensured Nigeria emerged as champions in 2013 AFCON. But the former Fenerbache winger featured in opening match against Iran and in 2-0 loss to France owing to injury problem. It was a different story four years later in Russia 2018 World Cup with Moses scoring from the spot in Nigeria’s 2-1 loss to Argentina. He has since found redemption in club football after he voluntarily retired from the national team. Although still a Chelsea player, he is currently on loan at Inter FC in the Serie A.

Micheal Uchebo

Generally derided by the fans with many questioning his selection ahead of Sunday Mba, Chinedu Obasi and Brown Ideye, Uchebo was in Brazil to make up the numbers.

His international debut came against Mexico and he found the net against Scotland. He was third in the pecking order of strikers in the team and had a taste of action when he came in for Osaze Odemwingie against France in the second round.

Babatunde Michael

Many felt Baba, as he’s fondly called, came in through the back door. But the former Volyn midfielder showed lots of promise and rose above the occasion with his deft touches and blistering runs. He had an assist against Argentina.

Capped 13 times for Nigeria, Michael has never enjoyed a call up from current Eagles’ Coach Gernot Rohr.

He plies his trade at Wydad FC of Morocco where he has become an iconic player.

Uche Nwofor

He was one the least expected to make Keshi’s squad to Brazil. Not surprising, Nwofor only featured for 10 minutes against Argentina. He was deemed surplus to requirement by Keshi and was dropped few minutes to Eagle’s departure for AFCON qualifiers against South Africa. He never made a comeback to the national team since Brazil 2014. Nwofor rejoined Enugu Rangers in 2018 and featured for Rivers United last year. He is currently without a club.

Shola Ameobi

Ameobi was the ‘Methuselah’ in Keshi’s 23-man team to Brazil 2014 after the former Mali gaffer claimed Ameobi was called up to add sparks to the team’s attack.

He scored a spectacular goal against Italy in a friendly and his World Cup dream became a reality.

The former Newcastle striker was capped twice by Nigeria when he came in as substitute against Iran and Argentina.

Ameobi currently fills up a role of loan manager in Newcastle where he arranges temporary deals with clubs home and abroad to ensure that the club’s youngsters are ready for a new life at St. James’ Park.

Ramon Azeez

Ramon only had one cap for Super Eagles against Mexico in an international friendly, so it shocked bookmakers to see the former U-17 player in Keshi’s 23-man team lists for the mundial.

The former Lugo FC midfielder tried his best but was eventually overwhelmed by the occasion and appeared shell-shocked after Mikel kicked against this inclusion after Onazi got injured in the second round tie against France.

Interestingly, he has returned to the Eagles lately and seems to have a role to play in the team’s future under Gernot Rohr.



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