Super Eagles: XI of the Decade
The turn of the current decade for the Nigerian male national side has been full of, well, Nigerianness; not so much ups and downs but rather earthquakes and zeniths. Two World Cup qualifications, two third-place finishes at the African Cup of Nations, and one AFCON title; which went side-by-side with two successive failures to qualify for the AFCON, seven different managers, and a certain miss in Durban in June 2010.
For a projected instantaneous success of the team after failures to qualify for the 2015 and 2017 AFCON, changes had been necessitated administratively and in the dugout. The players, who have donned the green and white colours haven’t been an exemption – albeit some players never should have been close to the jersey.
While some are undeserving of the shirt, more than enough have done well enough in the green and white colours – and approaching the year 2020, here are the eleven best players that have featured for the three-time African champions in the last decade.
GOALKEEPER: VINCENT ENYEAMA
Enyeama isn’t just the outright best shot-stopper that managed the sticks for Nigeria in the last decade, but he’ll be in the fray amongst the country’s best players of the last decade.
The former Lille player made his international debut prior to the 2002 World Cup and went on be Nigeria’s joint most-capped player, arguably, has been Africa’s best goalkeeper of the last 10 years.
Enyeama featured in three World Cups, won four AFCON bronze medals, and was the de-facto captain when Nigeria conquered the continent for the third time in 2013. At the end of 2014, when Joseph Yobo retired from international football, Enyeama was the captain till his abrupt announcement to quit international football after a fracas with Super Eagles’ erstwhile manager Sunday Oliseh. It says so much about his impact that the Super Eagles have struggled for a reliable man in goal since he left.
LEFT-BACK: TAYE TAIWO
For the decade under discourse, Taye Taiwo only represented the Super Eagles for four years, but his decent showing hasn’t been matched by the likes of Elderson Echiejile, Juwon Oshaniwa and others, who have been called up to fill his void since the energetic left-back left the international scene in 2012
Taye Taiwo, who was a cog member of Nigeria’s silver medallist squad at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup, scored five goals in a total 53 appearances for the national team.
CENTRE-BACK: JOSEPH YOBO
Unarguably, Nigeria’s finest defender since the turn of the century. Yobo’s international span that lasted 13 years, saw him play as a regular undisputed starter alongside numerous defenders (centre backs pairing only includes names like Joseph Enakhaire, Abbey George, Rabiu Afolabi, Danny Shittu – to mention a few). The former Everton defender took up the captaincy armband after Nwankwo Kanu retired from the team in 2010, and three years later he guided Nigeria to her third AFCON title.
With 101 appearances, Yobo is the Super Eagles’ most-capped player alongside Enyeama. He scored seven international goals, played at four World Cups, and won four AFCON bronze medals.
CENTRE-BACK: WILLIAM TROOST-EKONG
The failings aftermath of the 2013 AFCON success necessitated an overhaul of the Eagles’ backline. Whilst termed unfit to play the African game when he made his debut by Sunday Oliseh, the then national team boss, Ekong’s first primary assignment was a remarkable one, as alongside Leon Balogun, he formed what’s termed the “oyinbo wall” – qualifying Nigeria for the 2018 World Cup without losing a game, in a group that contained Cameroon, Algeria, and Zambia.
With 38 caps under his belt, no doubt, Ekong looks the closest to Yobo in terms of quality we’ve seen from the centre-backs that have represented Nigeria in the last decade, and he’s not showing any sign of waning any time soon.
RIGHT-BACK: EFE AMBROSE
The Super Eagles’ right-back slot is one down the decade has always been filled by average players. Chidi Odiah seemed to be the most decent, but although not a traditional right-back Efe Ambrose’s ability to play across the backline, superior caps, goals, and international honours makes him the better choice over Odiah.
Ambrose, a member of Nigeria 2007 U-20 World Cup and 2008 team that won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics, was part of the Eagles’ AFCON winning squad, where he played at right-back. His sterling showing at the competition earned him a place in the team of the tournament.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: WILFRED NDIDI
Ndidi isn’t the archetypal defensive midfielder that Nigerians have been craving since Sunday Oliseh left the international scene in 2002, but unarguably, he’s the best to have filled the role. Ndidi has been an integral and a constituent figure in the national team since his national team debut in 2015 – as he was part of Nigeria’s 2018 World Cup squad and the 2019 AFCON bronze medal team. Currently, the Leicester City midfielder is one of Nigeria’s finest exports in Europe.
CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: JOHN MIKEL OBI
John Mikel-Obi is Nigeria’s second-most a decorated player at the club level behind Nwankwo; at Chelsea he won Chelsea two English Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups, and one Champions League and Europa League. In an international career that lasted 14 years, Mikel, who was 2005 U-20 World Cup second best player, behind Lionel Messi, played 89 senior games and scored six goals.
The Trabzonspor man, aside winning an AFCON trophy, also helped the Nigeria U-23 team to a bronze-medal finish at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
WINGER: OSAZE ODEMWINGIE
The Uzbek born former international, in 63 appearances for the national team scored 10 goals. Odemwingie’s international career might have ended ignominiously, but unarguably, his early days in the national team, he’s an outright pick for the most consistent and reliable outfield player. A dispute with Stephen Keshi denied Odemwingie a place at 2013 AFCON, but was called up for the 2014 World Cup. And his lone goal against Bosnia gave Nigeria a first World Cup win since 1998, and a place at the round 16 of the competition.
WINGER: AHMED MUSA
Musa first burst onto the scene on the national stage at the Under-20 World Cup in 2011, after a record-scoring season with Kano Pillars at the Nigerian Professional Football League in 2010. At 27, Musa is both Super Eagles’ sixth-most capped (86) and highest-scoring player (17). Musa became the first Nigerian to score more than once in a FIFA World Cup match, after scoring twice against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup. He’s also the first Nigerian to score in two FIFA World Cup competitions, after scoring twice against Iceland in the group stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Currently the national team captain, Musa was part of the team that won 2013 AFCON.
ATTACK: OBAFEMI MARTINS
Obagol, as fondly called, gets the nod ahead of Ikechukwu Uche due to the latter’s inability to score in any tournament’s final, and the former Inter and Wolfsburg man bagged 18 national team goals. Martins’ time in the national team was marred by various controversies with the coaches and the Football Federation, but anytime unleashed, he used to be a thorn in the flesh for opposition defenders.
He will probably be most remembered for his goal against Kenya that gave Nigeria the 2010 World Cup, after the nation had missed out on the 2006 edition.
ATTACK: ODION IGHALO
Ighalo’s international career lasted just four years, but it was a productive one. It’s not all that straightforward after the player revealed his life was threatened by Nigerians for his failure to score at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. And while there were calls for Ighalo to be ousted from the national team, Gernot Rohr kept faith that later yielded seven goals in the 2019 AFCON qualifying series. At the tournament proper, Ighalo was the highest-scoring player with five goals and helped Nigeria to a third-place finish. In a total of 35 games for the national team, Ighalo scored 16 times.
Olatosimi Fadahunsi278 Posts
Olatosimi is a part-time non-professional footballer and a football writer with spotkick. His ideology/mind/eyes endlessly rove multidimensionally.