With the Super Eagles having performed well below expectations in their opening Cup of Nations qualifying fixtures against the Republic of Congo and South Africa, Goal Nigeria highlights five players that the team will hope are on their best form in order to obtain victory in the two-legged encounter against Sudan.
Stating that Enyeama is statistically the best goalkeeper in Europe at the moment after keeping over six clean sheets in just nine league games in the French Ligue 1 is probably the best way to underline the how important the 32-year-old’s presence against Sudan could be for the Super Eagles.
Enyeama has consistently kept the team in contention even against bigger oppositions like Argentina and France at the World Cup in Brazil. Already, in his absence, second-choice goalkeeper Austin Ejide shipped three goals against Congo in the team’s first group match.
The long-time deputy in the goalkeeping department of the Super Eagles was far from convincing against Bafana Bafana of South Africa, and has done little to earn the trust of the fans and critics alike over time.
Thus, an in-form Enyeama will be a crucial addition to the team against an unpredictable Sudanese side. Hopefully the near-record-breaker will avoid any further upsets for the Super Eagles.
Middlesbrough’s on-loan Chelsea man was arguably the Super Eagles’ best player in their opening two matches.
Against South Africa he made crucial interceptions and blocks, completing four tackles. Had it not been for Omeruo’s maturity in both games, the scoreline could have been worse as he often had to make up for the lapses of his central-defensive partner Godfrey Oboabona.
Omeruo has immense quality, there’s little doubt, but it’s true that his career with Nigeria to date has been troubled—now that the side are under pressure, the defender needs to show a genuine maturity.
Should the 20-year-old defender be in his usual best against Sudan, there should be a lesser chance of the team conceding.
It’s perhaps already turning into a tradition for the Lazio man to cover the frailties and shortcomings of his midfield partner John Obi Mikel.
The 21-year-old has consistently proved that he is the engine room of Stephen Keshi’s team, breaking up opponents’ play and starting up attacks in a swift and steady fashion.
Despite not being 100 per cent fit in both games against Congo and South Africa, he did well to ensure that the team’s midfield did not collapse outright, despite the partial anonymity of Mikel and Ramon Azeez (Nosa Igiebor against South Africa).
Keshi’s team will certainly be affected positively should Onazi stand up to the challenges in both encounters in Sudan and in Nigeria.
With Victor Moses ruled out of the both fixtures and Michael Babatunde a doubt, Aluko should be drafted into the first team to provide the trickery and slick movements both players would usually contribute.
Should Keshi again opt to play him at the tip of the midfield as a No. 10, he would also provide the creativity that was lacking in the midfield in the first two group fixtures.
Bizarrely, the Hull City forward, who now has not-insignificant experience of the Premier League, was only given the briefest of cameos. Surely Keshi cannot continue to leave such a versatile talent on the sidelines for much longer.
Will he be given more occasion to influence affairs in the double-header against Sudan?
It’s perhaps not coincidental that, in a time when the goals have suddenly dried up for the Afcon 2013 Golden boot winner, it has also become too difficult for the Super Eagles to get the match-winning goals they require.
Since Keshi took over, Emenike has been somewhat of a saviour for the team, scoring important goals when needed and providing a great presence for the other attackers to benefit from.
With in-form forwards such as Obafemi Martins, Ike Uche and Bartholomew Ogbeche not invited for both fixtures, it’s obvious that he will be depended on to provide the much needed goals.
Should these players hit top form, nothing can prevent the Super Eagles from clinching victories in the two-legged tie.