BLERF’s WHO’s who in the Super Eagles

The dream of every footballer on earth is to play of his country at the world stage and naturally, they do everything humanly possible to achieve that.

Playing in the world cup is seen as the reaching the pinnacle of one’s career. Winning the trophy is an added bonus on the players’ curriculum vitae.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria will be fielding a 23-man team which has been said to be the youngest team for this year soccer fiesta. And this is one of the reasons.

Out of the 23-man squad, 17 of them don’t have the experience at playing at the World Cup and will be leaning on the likes of John Mikel Obi, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses, Kenneth Omeruo and Ogenyi Onazi for guidance.

The happiness of a soccer-loving nation depends on these 17 debutants.

Francis Uzoho

Francis is the youngest of the three goal keepers called up for the World Cup. He is 20 years and holds the record as the youngest foreign keeper to play in La Liga which he achieved when he was 18 years, 11 months and 17 days old according to Deportivo website.

It was reported that Francis began his football career as a forward before he was converted to a goal keeper because he was “too slow” at the age of 12.  In 2016, after impressing on a tournament in Barcelona, he joined Deportivo de La Coruña’s Juvenil squad.

He had his own share of playing with the junior teams when he represented Nigeria under-17s at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup when he was 14 years old.

His progress as a future goal keeper for the senior team did not go unnoticed as he received his first call-up in 2017 by the Gernot Rohr who seems to have placed so much faith in the youngster. He made his full international debut on 14 November, replacing Daniel Akpeyi in a 4–2 friendly win against Argentina. He has 5 caps to his name and is expected to be in the first eleven of the team.

William Troost-Ekong

William Paul Troost-Ekong had represented the Netherlands at under-19 and under-20 youth levels. He, however, made his senior international debut for Nigeria on 13 June 2015 in an AFCON qualifier against Chad under late Stephen Keshi.  The 25-year-old ‘oyibo’ has 21 caps with a goal.

Leon Balogun

Leon-Aderemi Balogun who was born to a Nigerian father and German mother, made his official debut for the Super Eagles in a friendly match against Mexico in March 2014 which ended in distraught for him – he got injured after 20 minutes in a collision with signage on the touchline

The 30-year-old defender who just signed for Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion has 18 caps for Nigeria but with a goal.

Brian Idowu

Russian born Nigerian left back plays Russian side, FC Amkar with spells with Dynamo St.Petersburg. The 26 year old defender made his way into the Nigerian team in November 2017 when he was called up to the Super Eagles team for their friendly against Argentina in Krasnodar on 14 November 2017. He has 4 caps to name with a goal. He is set to play for his second home country at the World Cup in his home city.

Kelechi Iheanacho

The Leicester City midfielder has represented Nigeria at all levels and made his senior debut as a substitute in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Swaziland in which Nigeria drew 0–0 and has played a total of 17 games with eight goals.

Oghenekaro Etebo

The Las Palmas box-to-box midfielder is well remembered for scoring 4 goals against Japan in Nigeria’s opening group match during the Olympic Games in Brazil. He has 12 caps for the team with a goal for the senior side.

Alex Iwobi

Arsenal’s creative midfielder joined the Super Eagles team on 8 October 2015, replacing Ahmed Musa in the 57th minute of a 2–0 friendly defeat to DR Congo in Visé, Belgium.

Though he had played for England’s youth team, his uncle and Nigeria football legend, Austin Jay Jay Okocha urged him to play for West African side. He has played 18 times for the Super Eagles with 5 goals to his name.

Odion Ighalo

China based striker, Odion Jude Ighalo is expected to lead the strike force. He made his way into the team on March, 25, 2015 but made his debut two days later starting in a 0–1 friendly home loss to Uganda under the interim manager, Daniel Amokachi. He has 19 caps with four goals to his name.

Elderson Echiéjilé

The 30 year old left-back made his debut for the senior side in 2009, he narrowly missed being on the plane when Stephen Keshi named his final 23-man squad for the 2014 World Cup. He got injured in a warm up match and was replaced by Ejike Uzoenyi. He is one of the senior citizens in the team with 59 caps and 2 goals.

Shehu Abdullahi

The former Kano Pillars defender who can also double as a defensive midfielder became a part of the Super Eagles team following an invitation from late Stephen Keshi in January 2014. He has 22 caps but yet to score a goal for the national team.

Wilfred Ndidi

The combative midfielder joined the Super Eagles on October 8, 2015, making his debut in the friendly game against DR Congo, and playing again a few days later in the 3–0 win against Cameroon, when he replaced John Obi Mikel in the 63rd minute. He has played 16 games with no goals scored for the team.

Other debutants to play their part to see to the success of the Super Eagles are Chidozie Awaziem; Tyronne Ebuehi; Joel Obi; Daniel Akpeyi; Ikechukwu Ezenwa; John Ogu; Simeon Nwankwo.

The 2013 African champions will begin their quest for glory against Croatia on June 16 with Iceland the next opponent on June 22. Final group stage match will be against perennial foes, Argentina on June 26.

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