Player Ratings: Nigeria 4-0 Libya

Saturday, 13 October 2018 19:35

The Super Eagles are well and truly up and running, after following up their win in Seychelles in September with victory over Libya at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, to go above the Mediterranean Knights and into second place in Group E of the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifying. An Odion Ighalo treble did the trick as Nigeria considerable light work of the North Africans, a kind of trouncing that might make their former coach accuse us of using metaphysical powers.

So, how did the players fare in the Eagles’ success in Uyo:

Francis Uzoho: The goalkeeper had very little to do on the day, but when required he did his bit with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency. Made a terrific reflex save to deny Libya’s Mohammed Anis Saltou early on. (7)

Shehu Abdullahi: Had a quiet 15 minutes, before going off injured. The Bursaspor right-back will hope to recover before the return leg on Wednesday. (6)

William Troost-Ekong: Did very well to quell the threat of Anis Saltou, particularly when the ball was on the ground, and hardly looked troubled. Unfairly booked late on. (8)

Leon Balogun: Had little trouble to deal with in the game, moping with ease and effectiveness. Made an error midway through the second period, but it amounted to little. (7)

Jamilu Collins: Perhaps a tactical instruction, but didn’t go forward as much as you’d expect a full-back to, spending most of the game tucked in at the defence. The one time he went forward, he struck the crossbar from close range. (6)

Wilfried Ndidi: Came close to scoring in the first half, when his header hit the outside of the post, and had his usual calming display in midfield. Booked for a foul midway through the first half. (7)

Oghenekaro Etebo: Another tireless display in the middle from the Stoke man, although he didn’t get forward as much as he usually does. By his standards, a little quiet day at the office. (6)

Ahmed Musa: Not the best performance from the skipper, who spent the first half tasked with crossing from the right, as opposed to his typical cutting in from the left. His passes were mostly a yard or two off, even his assist for Ighalo’s third goal was grateful to a defensive mishap. (5)

Alex Iwobi: The in-form Arsenal man carried that rich vein of form to the national scene, as he flourished in the No. 10 role. Played a part in the second and third goals, with a couple of well-threaded passes. (9)

Samuel Kalu: Looked lively throughout and did well to track back and provide support to Collins, particularly in the first half, but his decision making was quite lacking, a couple of one-touch-too-many situations as well as some ill-advised shots. Seemed desperate to find the net, but when he did, in stoppage time, it was a brilliant finish. (7)

Odion Ighalo: The striker who’s been subject of some criticism in the national side of late, offered a retort with a top-class performance. Bagged his first hatrick for the Super Eagles, and his work ethic wasn’t lacking, which helped in winning that early penalty. (10)

Substitutes

Ola Aina: Came on early for the injured Abdullahi, and after a rather nervy first half, steadied himself. Like Collins, he didn’t get forward as much, but was tidy in defence, particularly after the break. (6)

Henry Onyekuru: Came on for Musa, and could have scored with his first touch. Did well to set up Kalu for the fourth goal. (6)

Isaac Success: Barely had an impact on the game, particularly because he spent little time on the pitch. Played in Onyekuru with a good pass late on, but had little else to shout about. (5)

Published in Awa Football

Katsina United’s brave fall on penalties, to Kano Pillars, in the semi-final of this year’s Aiteo Cup has a story in it, an unfancied northern side with an impressive (by our standards) youth system coming within only two games from continental football is worth talking about. But will we talk about it? Do we ever talk about how what happens in our football?

It’s a continuous cancer that eats up at our game, and this year’s federation cup only serves as one of the effects, another evidence in a long list of incriminating metaphorical documents that show why and how our football is lacking. Nobody has any interest in it, nobody wants to be interested in it, and nobody wants to interest us in it; so club football in Nigeria just goes past, like the most redundant extra in a movie set.

So, who’s to blame? Who bears the brunt of culpability over this increasing shitshow that is our game? Perhaps the most Nigerian thing about our football is the fact that no one will take responsibility, or be held accountable, so we let the mediocrity and haphazardness drift on.

Who’s to blame? The league body, because it’s more than happy to schedule two semi-finals in the same day (Rangers’ win over Nasarawa in the second semi also took place on the same day), at noon as well. The league body, because it moves league games to Monday mornings. The league body, because it cancels games set to be played on Easter holidays and reschedules them for the first working day after, because the fans they’re meant to attract won’t work to pay to see games. The league body, because it keeps no information on its players whose most reliable source of income are paltry bonus fees over continental games. The league body, because its marketability is as awful as its football, its lack of palpable revenue generation does its best to put off any prospective owners lingering out there.

Who’s to blame? The federation, because it’s more interested in grabbing sponsor finances than the players and clubs. The league body, because it would rather focus on its elections, as if the national ones don’t bother and sicken us enough. The federation because there are supposedly no funds to release to the league, but there are funds to fight over.

Who’s to blame? The media, because we’re more interested in covering the administrative elections than what happens on the pitch. The media because you tune in to an hourly programme on the radio, supposedly dedicated to sports in the morning of the cup semi-finals, championed by those who bellow media patriotism in your face, but you get nothing on the cup semi-finals until the programme’s final three seconds. The media because the said-renowned sports newspaper in the country doesn’t give a hoot and a half about the cup, that’s supposedly prestigious and reputable in nothing but name these days. The media because the only television that gives the league a lick apparently can’t tell a razor blade from a cutlass.

Who’s to blame? The country, because these days everything going on is a microcosm of its state. The country because we’d rather design supposedly indigenous brands in Asia. The country because its economy makes being a match-goer so ridiculously fanciful, its bashed in whatever scale of preference it falls in. Support the NPFL on Twitter, but do nothing nowhere else.

Are there solutions to these problems? Obviously. Are we ever going to talk about and get to the point of applying them? Don’t be absurd.

Published in Awa Football

All of Nigeria’s FIFA World Cup Matches

Monday, 01 October 2018 09:38

Six World Cups. Two different periods of three successive appearances. 23 goals. One net-bulging celebration. One FIFA Goal of the Tournament Nominee. One mighty jaw-dropping miss. And that one ridiculously alluring and out-selling kit.

Nigeria at the FIFA World Cup has produced quite a few memories, many of them. From Finidi George celebrating like Finidi George in Foxborough, to Jay-Jay Okocha espousing his love for ‘Nkechi’ in Kobe. From the entire nation cursing at Sani Kaita, to Coca-Cola’s ‘Naija Issa Goal’ ringer.

That one time in every four years when even those with very little interest in football take note, when fathers seem to have no other duties than simply being fans, when the morning after the night before is about nothing other than the night before.

So in keeping with Independence Day (our Independence Day, not the American movie), we take a look at every World Cup game Nigeria has ever played in:

1994 (USA)

VS Bulgaria (June 21, Dallas)

After coming close but missing out on appearing in the 1990 World Cup, Nigeria finally made their debut on the global stage four years later. Their first game in Group D was in Dallas against Bulgaria, a game most famous for Rashidi Yekini shaking the net in raucous delight after having the honour of scoring the Super Eagles’ first ever World Cup goal. Goals from Daniel Amokachi and Emmanuel Amuneke capped off a very satisfying win for Clemence Westerhof’s side.

VS Argentina (June 25, Foxborough)

Nigeria’s second group game of USA ’94 was against opponents we’ll come to get accustomed to meeting. Argentina had also begun the tournament with a win, but, thanks to Samson Siasia, fell behind in Foxborough after just eight minutes. It didn’t last long, though, in the 21st minute Claudio Caniggia levelled for Argentina, and then the same man put La Albiceleste in front seven minutes later. 2-1 it finished, and thus began World Cup meetings between us and the Argentines, all of which have ended in disappointment.

VS Greece (June 30, Foxborough)

Nigeria went up against fellow World Cup debutants Greece in their final group game, knowing elimination was a possibility, but so was the chance of topping the group. As it turned out, it was the latter that happened, Finidi George opening the scoring in first half stoppage time, then producing his eye-catching celebration, before Amokachi sealed victory in second half stoppage time. That result, coupled with Argentina losing to Bulgaria, meant the Eagles finished top of Group D.

VS Italy (July 5, Foxborough)

In what seemed like a deliberate attempt by FIFA to make sure the Super Eagles don’t see much of the United States, Nigeria played a third successive game at the Foxboro stadium, a last-16 clash against Italy, who had struggled to get out of Group E. Things to be falling Nigeria’s away, Amuneke putting us in front after 25 minutes, and then in the second half, Italy substitute Gianfranco Zola got sent off. With two minutes to go, Nigeria were heading for the quarter-finals, but a loss in concentration let in Roberto Baggio to roll in a late equaliser for the Azzurri and take us to extra-time. Things got no better in the additional 30 minutes, only 12 of it had gone, when Baggio won a penalty, thanks in no small part to Sunday Oliseh dallying in possession on the halfway line. Baggio scored the spotkick, Nigeria had no answer despite a numerical advantage, and the fat lady sang on our World Cup.

1998 (France)

VS Spain (June 13, Nantes)

A second successive World Cup appearance in a row, and Nigeria were up against it in their first game, having been drawn to play European giants Spain. There were very little surprises when La Roja took the lead midway through the first half, thanks to a Fernando Hierro free-kick, but Nigeria would hit back via the head of the ‘headmaster’, Mutiu Adepoju rising highest to meet a corner, ensuring the Super Eagles would go into halftime on terms. But only two minutes had elapsed in the second half when Raul fired Javier Clemente’s Spanish side back in front. Nigeria, however, would respond again, via a stroke of luck, Spain captain and goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta spilling Garba Lawal’s cross into his net with 17 minutes left. And five minutes after, the turnaround was complete, a long-range belter from Sunday Oliseh proving to be a worthy winning goal, as the Eagles left with the points.

VS Bulgaria (June 19, Paris)

For the second World Cup running, Nigeria came up against Bulgaria. But this game in the French capital was underwhelming, the only note of quality was when Jay-Jay Okocha played in Victor Ikpeba to score the only goal of the game just before the half-hour, as two wins in two games meant Nigeria had not only qualified, but also guaranteed top spot in Group D.

VS Paraguay (June 24, Toulouse)

With Group D already in the bag, Nigeria could afford to take their foot off the gas in their final group game against Paraguay, and  appeared to, as the Paraguayans took the lead after just 31 seconds through Celso Ayala. Nigeria replied via Wilson Oruma, but Cesare Maldini’s side’s greater need showed in Toulouse, and goals from Miguel Angel Benitez and Jose Cardozo ensured they’d progress to the next round alongside the Super Eagles.

VS Denmark (June 28, St. Denis)

It was the venue of the World Cup final that the Eagles headed to four days after the Paraguay defeat, to face Denmark, who finished second in Group C. But inside 12 minutes, we were already two down; Peter Moller and Brian Laudrup giving us a mountain to climb already. Danish substitute Ebbe Sand made it three immediately after coming on, on the hour mark, before Thomas Helveg added a fourth with 14 minutes left. Nigeria got a consolation goal from the right boot of Tijani Babangida, but our second World Cup journey, like the first, lasted four games.

2002 (South Korea/Japan)

VS Argentina (June 2, Ibaraki)

A third World Cup appearance in succession, and Nigeria were pitted in the ‘Group of Death’, alongside Argentina, Sweden and England in Group F. With us being pitted in the latter four of the groups, our World Cup group stage would be in Japan, and it began on the 2nd of June in Ibaraki. It didn’t get off to a great start, as a 63rd-minute header from Gabriel Batistuta consigned us to defeat.

VS Sweden (June 7, Kobe)

There was still time for Nigeria to turn things around, and five days after facing Argentina, we were up against Sweden in Kobe. After 27 minutes, we went in front, Julius Aghahowa heading Joseph Yobo’s cross into the Sweden net, but Henrik Larsson would reply for the Swedes eight minutes later. Then just past the hour mark, precisely the 63rd minute- just like Batistuta did against us in Ibaraki- Larsson scored again, converting from 12 yards after been fouled in the box by Isaac Okoronkwo. There would be no equaliser for the Super Eagles, and after just two games, Festus Onigbinde’s side were eliminated.

VS England (June 12, Osaka)

With the Eagles already eliminated, the final game against England was a dead-rubber for us. And in the heat-soaked atmosphere in Osaka, an uneventful goalless game was notable for a start for 17-year-old Femi Opabunmi, and a World Cup debut for a young Vincent Enyeama.

2010 (South Africa)

VS Argentina (June 12, Johannesburg)

Surprise, surprise. Argentina again. Diego Maradona, who was the skipper when we first met the two-time world champions in 1994, was the coach this time, as Lionel Messi and co were the newest sets of Argentine opponents, this time in Johannesburg’s Ellis Park. Nigeria were back on the Only six minutes had gone when Nigeria went behind, Gabriel Heinze heading home a Juan Veron corner. That was the only goal of the game, but the match itself was most notable for Vincent Enyeama’s Man of the Match performance in Nigeria’s goal, denying Messi on every occasion.

VS Greece (June 17, Bloemfontein)

Bloemfontein was the next South African location, as Lars Lagerback’s Eagles aimed to get their tournament back on track. Greece were the next opponents, a side who’d never scored in the World Cup before, so we were pretty confident. And that confidence almost graduated to smugness when Kalu Uche gave us the lead from a free-kick after 16 minutes. Nigeria were riding high, but things took a downturn when Sani Kaita was sent off after a kerfuffle with Greece’s Vasilis Torosidis. Nigeria were suddenly under pressure, and on the cusp of halftime, Haruna Lukman deflected Dimitrios Salpingidis’s shot into the net. Level at halftime, Nigeria had a numerical disadvantage, and were indebted to Enyeama for staying in the game. But Enyeama could do little in the 71st minute, when he pushed out Alexandros Tziolis’ shot towards Torosidis, who put Greece in front. 2-1 it finished, and Nigeria’s World Cup hopes hung by a thread.

VS South Korea (June 22, Durban)

Nigeria’s national side are famous for their dose of tension-inducing ‘mathematics’, relying on other results going their way to progress. That form was how the Super Eagles got to South Africa in the first place, and they relied on ‘maths’ going into the final group game of this World Cup against South Korea. We needed a win, as well Argentina beating Greece in the other Group B game. We looked to be doing our bit when Uche put us in front inside 12 minutes, but Korea hit back seven minutes before halftime through Lee Jung-Soo. Things became nightmarish when Park Chu-Yung rifled home a free-kick four minutes after the interval, then came the moment that will reverberate throughout World Cup history. Midway through the second period, Uche laid on a pass for Youssuf Ayila, whose cross (you’ve heard, read and/or watched this so many times, haven’t you) was turned puzzlingly wide by Yakubu, who stood two yards from goal. Yakubu did score from the penalty spot with just over 20 minutes left, but a draw was insufficient, as the Eagles crashed out of the World Cup. Neither Yakubu nor Sani Kaita have been seen in a national shirt since.

2014 (Brazil)

VS Iran (June 16, Coritiba)

Nigeria’s first game of the 2014 World Cup was in Coritiba, but back home, everywhere looked green in the build-up, from the streets of Ibadan, the roads in Port-Harcourt, to the nooks and crannies in Oshodi, there was a buzz in the air. Iran were seen by many as the weakest side in the group, so a Nigerian win was expected, almost a foregone conclusion. The game turned out to be the first draw of the tournament, a tepid goalless draw which saw Shola Ameobi in a Super Eagles shirt: it really looked weird.

VS Bosnia-Herzegovina (June 21, Cuiaba)

Nigeria’s second game of the tournament was against Europeans Bosnia, at midnight in our time, in Cuiaba (which for the record is recognised by the Microsoft English dictionary, unlike Coritiba). Nigeria looked to have gone behind early, but Edin Dzeko’s effort for Bosnia was ruled out for offside, a decision which match referee Peter O’Leary later admitted to be a mistake. Nigeria, however took the lead after Emmanuel Emenike got the better off Bosnia skipper Emir Spahic and played in Peter Odemwingie, who found the net, just before the half-hour mark. Dzeko hit the post late in the second half as Bosnia sought an equaliser, but Stephen Keshi’s Eagles held on, and put one foot in the second round.

VS Argentina (June 25, Porto Alegre)

Oh look, people, Argentina again- na wa oo. Nigeria went into the game against the Argentines in Porto Alegre needing just a point to go through with the South Americans. Argentina took the lead after three minutes via Lionel Messi, but Nigeria responded barely a minute later through Ahmed Musa. Messi put Argentina back in front, with a free-kick just before halftime, but Musa would respond for the Eagles again, just after the break. However, La Albiceleste would have the last word, Marcos Rojo forcing home from a corner three minutes after Musa’s second leveller. Despite the loss, Nigeria still headed for the next round, after Iran’s loss to Bosnia. As for Marcos Rojo, it wasn’t the last time we’d hear from him.

VS France (June 30, Brasilia)

On June 30, in the Brazilian capital, Nigeria went up against France in the last 16. After a tight first half in Brasilia, Les Bleus upped the ante, leaving us to cling on for dear life, Yohan Cabaye hitting the bar, while Victor Moses made a goal-line clearance, and Vincent Enyeama produced a handful of saves. But with 11 minutes left, Enyeama would flap at a French corner, leaving Paul Pogba the chance to head the ball into an empty net. A stoppage time own goal from Joseph Yobo- making his 100th Nigerian appearance- sealed Nigeria’s fate, and we headed home, with the last eight still unreachable.

2018 (Russia)

VS Croatia (June 16, Kaliningrad)

Nigeria made light work of their CAF Qualifying group, easing past Zambia, Algeria and Cameroon, despite suffering a three-point deduction, to make it to Russia. Our first game in the World Cup was against Croatia, and an uninspiring first half ended with us behind after an Oghenekaro Etebo own goal. Our second half fared any better, as a penalty from Luka Modric sealed an opening game defeat for us in Kaliningrad.

VS Iceland (June 22, Volgograd)

Nigeria knew the game against Iceland in Volgograd was a must-win, for us to stand a strong chance of getting past the group stage. Once again, the first half was unexciting, but this time, the Super Eagles went into the break level. Then the second half got off to the best possible start, Ahmed Musa firing Nigeria in front after four minutes. Musa hit the post afterwards, before going on to the seal the win with 15 minutes left. Iceland got a chance to get back into the game, but Gylfi Sigurdsson skied a penalty, as Nigeria held on for three priceless points.

VS Argentina (June 26, St. Petersburg)

Yes, Argentina again- guys, we really should hold a reunion. Nigeria were in second place in Group D going into the final group game, while Argentina were bottom of the group with a solitary point, a draw for the Super Eagles would just about be enough for a place in the last 16. But after 14 minutes, we had gone behind, Lionel Messi doing what Lionel Messi does, and giving Argentina the lead. Messi hit the post in the first half as well, as Nigeria went into the break behind, and staring elimination in the face. But a lifeline came six minutes after halftime, when Javier Mascherano fouled Leon Balogun in the box, and Victor Moses converted the resulting penalty; Nigeria were level and back in pole position to qualify. The Super Eagles came close to going in front on several occasions, Odion Ighalo firing a shot wide, and also tested the Argentine goalkeeper Franco Armani, as did Wilfred Ndidi, while Etebo came close with a free-kick. But heartbreak would come with four minutes left, as Marcos Rojo finished from Gabriel Mercado’s cross to put Argentina on the cusp of the last 16. There would be no salvation for Nigeria, as we headed home after three games.

Published in Awa Football

Pinnick re-elected for NFF Presidential post

Thursday, 20 September 2018 15:01

 

Incumbent president of the Nigerian Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, made history on Thursday, after getting re-elected for another term in office.

 

Pinnick, whose first tenure in charge of the federation was marred by crisis over the authenticity of the election that brought him, saw off competition from former NFF president Aminu Maigari, former Nigeria defender Taiwo Ogunjobi and Chinedu Okoye, chairman of amateur league club Bimo FC in the election in Katsina.

 

Pinnick becomes the first person to win a second consecutive four-year term as President of the NFF after getting 34 votes from a total of 44, while Maigari had eight votes, Ogunjobi had two, and Okoye had none.

 

FIFA representatives, Luca Piazza and Solomon Mudege were among football chiefs who witnessed the election, and 45-year-old Pinnick will remain in office until 2022.

 



 

 

 

Published in Awa Football

So, that’s done and dusted. The Super Eagles finally got up and running in the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifiers, grabbing their first win in a rather low-quality game in Seychelles. A games with spills, jerks and more spills- and that was just the state of the turf during- had its talking points:

 

Kalu shows quality, but will need patience

It was clear from Samuel Kalu’s first touches of the ball, he wasn’t quite going to be the archetypal Nigerian winger, a stereotype of focus on running, hardly enough substance to show, mostly flashes and little end product (apologies to Nigerian wingers). His ability to take-on a man, coupled with his openness to doing the simpler things when required, is something of a rarity in the Super Eagles setup. There were more than a few flaws, though, some occasions in which he seemed a bit too eager to show he can do, resulting in a few loose touches and bad decisions, but that shouldn’t overshadow the positives. Patience will be required, but Kalu looks a fine replacement for the retired Victor Moses, if not an upgrade.

 

Iheanacho continues to try too hard

It’s hard not to get the feel, whenever Kelechi Iheanacho is on the ball, that the forward is trying a bit too hard, but at club and country level. Almost too eager to remind us of what he contributed in the past, he ends contributing little. It was evident again here in Seychelles, his desperation to impress, his over-eagerness to get himself into the fore of things, means he once again stuck out, other than stand out. Iheanacho needs to remember that it was doing the little things that made him so eye-catching at Manchester City. His quest in trying to do so much makes him do very little.

 

Did Rohr miss a trick with the substitutions?

There was little doubt that the game was just about wrapped up at halftime, and any form of scepticism over the clash was quelled when Odion Ighalo struck that late penalty. With the points surely in the bag, perhaps Gernot Rohr should have gone with a different line of substitutions, perhaps not opting to bring in Oghenekaro Etebo, but rather Kelechi Nwakali, and give the youngster another chance to impress against an admittedly sub-par opposition, as well as bringing in Henry Onyekuru much earlier than he actually did. It might well have been a case of the some of the fringe players giving him a healthy selection headache.

 

Omeruo’s inconsistency doesn’t look like the answer

Kenneth Omeruo continues to be quite the oddity. His ability to inspire with a terrific performance one game and infuriate with a sloppy display in another continues to be a source of bewilderment. And he managed to cram those differing traits into this one match in Victoria, making a good tackled and providing a good cover one minute, then misjudging the flight of a ball and giving a lax pass the next. In the absence of William Troost-Ekong, with whom Leon Balogun has already built a sturdy-looking partnership, this looked like a chance for Omeruo to give Rohr something to think about over future defensive selections. It was an opportunity missed.

 

There’s still much room for improvement

Despite the dominance and the deserved, it’s still hard not to think the scoreline flattered the Super Eagles. We continue to be caught out from set-pieces, no disrespect to Seychelles, but if they can find us out through crosses and set-piece routines, and we can leave so much space at the back, then it's a cause for alarm. Better opponents will surely punish the Eagles.

 

African football broadcasting still leaves much to be desired

There's the constant claim in African football that it's only matter of time before we match the Europeans and South Americans on the pitch, that seeing an African side in a World Cup semi-final is around the corner. But if the distance by which we're lagging behind them in terms of just football is sometimes open to debate, the ground we have to make up in terms of broadcasting football is clear-cut. For those watching the Seychelles-Nigeria game on television, there was barely any time in which the cameras switched to the fans, or the dugout, and then there's the commentary. Commentaries have found their way to becoming integral parts of football, and sometimes good commentary can compensate for low-key games. On the evidence of this encounter, African football commentary compliments the games. There was barely any life in the commentators' when Nigeria scored, or when any side attacked, and if anyone had suspicions of the commentators working absentmindedly on this game, the situation when a replay of the Eagles' first goal was being shown midway into the first half, and the commentator yelled in approval, only to remember it was a replay wouldn't have quelled such suspicions. In an error where football is much more than just the football, the continent looks incapable of even playing catch-up.

Published in Awa Football

Zidane was my all-time hero – Mikel

Monday, 03 September 2018 06:53

Zidane, Okocha, Kanu were my football heroes -Mikel

John Mikel Obi has picked former Zinedine Zidane as the player he looked up to when he was young.

Zidane, a three-time FIFA World Player of the year winner represented the likes of Juventus and Real Madrid in his playing days.

Though Mikel never had the opportunity to play with or against Zidane, he still handpicked the Frenchman as his all-time football hero.

Mikel who is one of the few players to have represent Nigeria at all levels also revealed he drew inspirations from Nigerian greats, Nwankwo Kanu and Jay Jay Okocha.

Mikel told sportsvillagesquare.com, “As a young player, I drew so much inspiration from two of the best stars Nigeria ever produced.

“I grew up looking up to (Nwankwo) Kanu and Jay Jay Okocha. I enjoyed watching them play for their respective club sides. More importantly, their exploits in the national team thrilled me.

“In their later years, I played in the Super Eagles with them. They were highly motivating to me.”

He added, “But on the global stage, Zinedine Zidane was my all-time hero.”

Published in Awa Football

Lille release Vincent Enyeama by mutual consent

The French Ligue 1 side have confirmed that they had ended their seven-year association with the Nigerian shot stopper on a mutual consent.

Vincent Enyeama, who joined Lille from Isreali side Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2011 has left Lille after he had had his contract terminated by mutual consent.

The 101 capped international, last featured for the 2010-11 French league champions in April 2017, as he was confined to play with the reserved team last season.

Read Also:

Vincent Enyeama: Top 5 Super Eagles moments

Meet the 6 Nigerian players in the UEFA Champions League this season

In a tribute statement, Lille wrote on their website, “Beyond his performances, Lille and the supporters will remember Vincent’s smile and enthusiasm.

“The club now wishes him the best in his future projects.”

Enyeama, in the 2013-14 season went 1,062 minutes without conceding a goal, keeping 17 clean sheets from 35 league games that same season.

The former Enyimba goalkeeper in 2014 emerged as the first goalkeeper to be named French Ligue 1 African player of the season.

 

Published in Awa Football

 

Krrrrrr went the generators. The day was far from being bright, but many Nigerians were awake. On a Saturday. This wasn't because, but rather the Dream Team.

 

That was the theme in August 2008, when the Olympics were hosted in the city of Beijing in China. The final of the football tournament occurred at the early hours of the morning, Nigerian time, so getting up early was the order of the day. Sleep was for the weak, the detractor, the unpatriotic, as we rose to watch the Dream Team play Argentina.

 

The Under-23 squad had players who were the Under-20 side that lost to Argentina in the final three years earlier in Holland, so revenge was quite on the cards. But it didn’t happen, an Angel Di Maria goal consigned us to a silver medal, Argentina had done for us again, and we grumbled as we went back to bed, so much for getting up so early.

 

Well, 10 years on- this month, that is-, we take a look at where every member of that squad is now. How have the lads we got up early for gotten on since:

 

Ambrose Vanzekin

 

The goalkeeper, well-known as much for his exploits in the U-20 World Cup in 2005 as he was for always putting a tape over part of his nose in Holland, kept just one clean sheet in six games in Beijing. He plied his trade at Nigerian Premier League side Akwa United then, and also had a brief stint with Warri Wolves. Last seen on the books at Ifeanyi Ubah.

 

Chibuzor Okonkwo

 

The regular right-back for the Dream Team, Okonkwo scored Nigeria’s fourth goal in the semi-final win over Belgium. Two years after the Olympics, he left Bayelsa United for Heartland, where he spent a couple of seasons before joining Enyimba. A move to Norwegian side Valerenga fell through for Okonkwo, who also had stints at Ifeanyi Ubah, El Kanemi Warriors, and Kwara United, as well as with Libyan side Asswehly SC. He made his senior team debut in March 2010, the first of his nine appearances.

 

Onyekachi Apam

 

Apam was at Nice back then, and after four years and 105 league games for the French side, he joined another team in the same country in Rennes. But his time at Rennes wasn’t so noteworthy, 23 appearances in four years, before leaving in 2014. He was last seen at Major League Soccer side Seattle Sounders, from where he was released without making a single appearance. He managed 14 senior team appearances.

 

Dele Adeleye

 

A rising star in that period, Adeleye impressed at the U-20 World Cup in 2005, and then at the Olympics that year. His step up to the senior side was inevitable, but he didn’t quite amount to much at that level, just 10 appearances, none of which came in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, despite him being part of the 23 that went. At club level, after a relatively successful time with Dutch side Sparta Rotterdam, he had spells in Ukraine with Metalurh Donetsk and Tavriya Simferopol, in Russia with Kuban Krasnodar and Anzhi Makhachkala, as well as in Greece and Kazakhstan.

 

Monday James

 

The man responsible was giving away that second penalty against the Argentines in the 2005 final, James was also with the side in Beijing. Afterwards, he left Bayelsa United for Swedish side Hammarby in 2009, then returned to four years later.

 

Chinedu Obasi

 

One of the stars of the U-20 tournament in 2005, Obasi couldn’t quite replicate that form in Beijing, though he got a brace in the semis against Belgium. By that time, he had already made his senior team debut (against Libya in 2005), and would make 17 more appearances, including in the African Nations Cup in 2010 (where he scored in a 3-1 group stage loss to Egypt) and the World Cup that same year. At club level, he was almost single-handedly responsible for Nigerians knowing the name Hoffenheim, having joined the German side from Lyn Oslo in 2007. After 92 games and 25 goals there, spells at Schalke, Swedes AIK, Chinese side Shenzhen, and English club Bolton followed. He recently joined Swedish club Elfsborg.

 

Sani Kaita

 

Just like Adeleye, Sani Kaita was a Sparta Rotterdam player at the time of this tournament. But he left not long after, joining Monaco. His time at Monaco spanned loan spells with Russian clubs Kuban Krasnodar, Alania Vladikavkaz, Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv and Greek side Iraklis, before permanently departing for Tavriya Simferopol in Ukraine in 2011. Stints at Olympiacos, J.S Hercules (then coached by Daniel Amokachi), and Saxan as well as back home with Enyimba and Ifeanyi Ubah followed. He was recently released by Finnish club Rovaniemen Pollaseura. On the national team front, he made 22 caps for the senior team, and has the dishonour of being the only Nigerian player to be sent off in the World Cup (against Greece in 2010). Nice going.

 

Victor Obinna Nsofor

 

Starting to become a household name for the senior side at this point, particularly after scoring against Tunisia in the Nations Cup in 2006, Nsofor was Nigeria’s top scorer, and the overall joint second top scorer, in this tournament with three goals. Part of the U-20 side in the African Youth Championship in 2005, but missed out on the World Cup squad, he’s gone on to make 48 appearances for the Super Eagles. At the club level, an impressive spell at Chievo Verona prompted a move to Inter Milan right after the tournament, but things weren’t so rosy, at the San Siro. Nsofor made only nine appearances for the Nerazzurri, and he wasn’t part of the squad that won the UEFA Champions League in 2010, due to being on loan at Malaga. Another loan move followed that, to West Ham, before a permanent transfer to Lokomotiv Moscow. He re-joined Chievo on loan in 2014, and also spent two years in Germany, with Duisburg and Darmstadt. Currently struts his stuff for South African side Cape Town City.

 

Isaac Promise

 

Another star of the 2005 tournament who didn’t quite shine here, Isaac Promise scored in the win against the USA in the final group game. A move to Trabzonspor from fellow Turkish side Genclerbiligi followed after the Olympics, and he spent much time in the Turkish lower divisions- spells at Maniaspor, Antalyaspor, Balikesirspor, Karabuskpor and Givesunspor, with a stint at Saudi Arabian side Al Ahli sandwiched in-between. Made three apps for the senior national team, and was last seen at US lower-league side Georgia Revolution.

 

Isaac Okoronkwo

 

He didn’t get as much playing time in Beijing as he had in Holland in 2005, and after the tournament he left Hertha Berlin in Germany for Russian side Saturn Moscow Oblast, and later on turned out for Aalesund in Norway. Has spent most of his playing career in the German lower division, with the likes of Sandhausen, Erzegebirge Aue and Saarbrucken, and made his first national team appearance in October 2008, sadly the first of only two.

 

Oluwafemi Ajilore

 

Another side that appeared in Holland in 2005, Ajilore had left Danish side Midtjylland for Dutch club Groningen not long before the tournament began. He made a return to Midtjylland in 2012, but not before turning out for Brondby in the same country. Last seen at Middelfert Boldklub, another side in Denmark, and has two senior national team appearances to his belt.

 

Olubayo Adefemi

 

Adefemi was on the books at Israeli side Hapoel Bnei Lod at the time of the tournament, before leaving to join Rapid Bucharest in Romania. Spells at Rheindorf Altach in Germany, as well as Boulogne in France, followed, before he joined Skoda Xanthi in Greece. Sadly, Adefemi passed away in a car accident in Greece in April 2011, having reportedly being on his way to Nigeria for his wedding.

 

Peter Odemwingie

 

One of the overage players to go with the squad, Odemwingie was more than known by Nigerians at this point. Made his debut for the Super Eagles against Kenya in March 2002, Odemwingie went on to make 63 caps for Nigeria, spanning four Nations Cup tournaments (his last of which, in 2010, he was the stand-in skipper), and two World Cups, even scoring in the win against Bosnia & Herzegovina in Brazil 2014. His club career was also eventful, three years at French side Lille, before three at Lokomotiv Moscow. He joined West Brom in 2010, and became the first player for the club to win a Player of the Month award in the Premier League. His time with the Baggies turned sour, though, his most notable act driving to Queens Park Rangers’ training ground on transfer deadline day in January 2013, despite West Brom not agreeing to sell him to the club. Joined Cardiff in 2013, and had further UK spells with Stoke, Bristol City and Rotherham. Currently plays for Indonesian side Madura United.

 

Efe Ambrose

 

Ambrose was also part of the U-20 setup in 2005, and was at Kaduna United at the time of this tournament. After one league and one FA Cup title, he later left the Nigerian Premier League, after a spell with Bayelsa Utd too, and joined Ashdod in Israel. Then in 2012, Ambrose moved to Scottish side Celtic, where he won four consecutive league titles, as well as the Scottish Cup in 2013. He’s currently turning out for Scot side Hibernian, where he won the Scottish Championship in 2017. He’s made 51 appearances for the national senior team, and was part of the side that won the Nations Cup in South Africa in 2013, where he was voted into the team of the tournament.

 

Victor Anichebe

 

Born in Lagos, but moved to Liverpool at the age of one, Anichebe scored for the Dream Team in their win over Japan in the group stage. Spent seven years at Everton, before joining West Brom, Anichebe has played for Sunderland and is currently at – as coincidence would have it- Beijing Enterprises in China. Made 11 senior team appearances, Anichebe announced his ‘temporary retirement’ from international football in 2013, saying he plans to return to the fold one day (stop laughing at the back).

 

Emmanuel Ekpo

 

Ekpo was at US club Columbus Crew at the time of this tournament. He joined Norwegian side Molde in 2012, before signing for Haugesund in the same country two years after. Last seen turning out for New Zealand side Eastern Suburb back in 2016, his only Super Eagles appearance came in a defeat to Argentina in September 2011.

 

Ikechukwu Ezenwa

 

The understudy to Vanzekin in this tournament, Ezenwa has spent all of his club career so far in Nigeria, spells at Ocean Boys, Heartland, Sharks, and Ifeanyi Ubah among others, and he’s currently at Enyimba. Was part of the U-20 side that went to Canada in 2007, he got his first senior call-up in 2015. Has made 24 caps so far for Nigeria, and went to the recently-concluded FIFA World Cup.

 

Oladapo Olufemi

 

Olufemi was on the books at Portuguese side Boavista then, having joined from Anderlecht in 2007. He left Boavista after one season, though, joining IK Start in Norway, before having spells back home with 3SC and Bayelsa Utd. Has three appearances for the senior national team, the first of which came against Sudan in January 2008.

 

Coach: Samson Siasia

 

The man in charge of the U-20 side in 2005, Siasia also went on to coach the senior national team in 2010. But he was sacked in October 2011, after Nigeria failed to qualify for the Nations Cup. He took charge of the U-23 side again, in 2016, winning bronze in Rio, and had a brief stint with Durgarpor in the Bengal Soccer League. Applied for the Cameroon job this year, Siasia is mostly seen doing pundit work for SuperSport.

 

 

 

 

 

Published in Awa Football

 

Moses might represent Nigeria in Qatar, says Odegbami

 

Victor Moses, last Wednesday, shocked Nigerians when he abruptly announced his retirement from international football.

 

The 27-year-old, who scored 12 goals in 37 appearances for Nigeria was said to be unhappy at the last World Cup, and had told his team mates of his plans to end his international engagement.

 

Though Moses cited focusing on his club football was the reason for calling the shots, Segun Odegbami said the enormous task attached to be the next captain of the Super Eagles was why Moses retired from international football.

 

The ex-international wrote on CompleteSports that the scrutiny, heinous responsibility and a possible infringement that might come along Moses being the new face of Nigerian football might have been the reason the Chelsea player decided to face his club football.

 

He wrote: “He is 27 years old. Under normal circumstances no player voluntarily retires from international football at an age that he is at his very best – experienced, mature, exposed, comfortable and at the peak of his physical fitness. So, to retire at 27 means something is not right somewhere.”

 

The mathematician has fondly called continued: “Moses may be afraid of the enormity of the weight of responsibility he has to carry should he be its captain. It may take a psychoanalysis of his situation to understand his motivation for announcing his retirement from the national team this week.

 

“In the line of hierarchical succession Victor Moses should naturally become the Super Eagles’next captain and the heart of a new assembly of players that shall emerge from the debris of the 2018 World Cup campaign.

 

“Victor Moses has always been on the quiet side, hardly speaking to the press, hardly seen in public places outside the field of play, especially in Nigeria.

 

“Whenever he comes to Nigeria he stays away from the limelight of the media. He never stays in the country for long, breezing in at the last minute before matches and heading out with the earliest flight available.

 

“For some reason, Victor Moses always carefully selected his appearances for the national team. He also avoided interviews about his personal life like a plague, feeling more comfortable playing, living and identifying with his foreign clubs in Europe.

 

“Now, fate has brought him closest to Nigeria. He is in the hierarchical line to become the next captain that a new Super Eagles assembly needs.

 

Ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, Odegbami believes Moses Moses would come out of retirement to represent Nigeria, so long a new captain has been named for the team.

 

“…Finally, I believe that this retirement is temporary, all things considered.

 

“We shall soon see him (Moses) again in a new Super Eagles assembly that will take the country to Qatar 2022.

 

“The big deal will be that Victor Moses will not be its captain!” Odegbami concluded.

 

Published in Awa Football

The Chelsea defender has confirmed that he would not be part of the national set up anymore

The 27-year-old announced on social media that he was retiring from international football.

Victor Moses, who had represented England at various youth levels, made his debut for Nigeria in 2012.

Moses, who featured in all of the Super Eagles games at the World Cup, in a statement on social media on Tuesday made his decisions to retire from playing for Nigeria known.

The statement obtained from his verified Twitter account reads: “I would like to announce that after much thought I have made the decision to retire from playing international football.

“I have experienced some of the best moments of my life wearing the Super Eagles shirt and have memories with me that will last a lifetime. Nothing will ever compete to what it felt like to represent Nigeria on behalf of our country.

“However I feel that now is the right time to step away in order to be able to focus fully on club career and my young family as well as to allow the next generation of Super Eagles Stars the opportunity to step up and flourish. We are blessed as a nation to have some exciting young players coming through and now is their time.

“There are so many highlights that stand out for me over the years; from making my debut, to playing in two World Cups and being a part of the team to win African Cup for first time four our nation since 1994 being just a few of them.

“I have already spoken to the manager by telephone and would like to say thank you to him and his staff, the NFF and all of my teammates for all of their support over the years.

“Most importantly I would like to say thank you to the Nigerian people for believing in me and supporting me over the years. It’s meant the world to me and my family and I will always be a proud Nigerian supporting the team.

“Thank you for the memories and good luck to the team for the future.”

Moses represented Nigeria on 37 occasions and had 12 international goals to his name.

 

Published in Awa Football

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