With Vincent Enyeama having reached the 100-cap mark and already at the other side of age 30, it is only normal that invitation of goalkeepers be based on form, experience and youthfulness. These three elements can be found in the three goalkeepers called up for the June 13 clash with Chad in Kaduna.The form of the goalkeepers cannot be questioned after having shared eleven (11) league clean sheets between themselves. Gabros of Nnewi youngster Chidiebere Eze was invited for the double-header friendlies against Uganda and South Africa in March and he keeps his place as he remains consistent in the top tier division. Eze has kept six clean sheets in nine league games this term, the most of any goalkeeper in the division.For Daniel Akpeyi who was a late replacement for Vincent Enyeama just before the South Africa friendly, he has successfully translated his heroics in Nelspruit to his club Warri Wolves and has kept seven clean sheets in all competitions this year.
Save for Sharks’ Joseph Nathaniel who has played a few times this term, the lot of invited players have been in superlative form week-in, week-out and their performances have reflected on the positions of their teams on the league log. Wolves’ Michael Egbeta and Nasarawa United’s Esosa Igbinoba are called up for the first time but Giwa FC’s Charles Henlong and Kano Pillars’ duo of Ubong Ekpai and Rabiu Ali are not new in national team business.
Some of the best attackers in the division so far were also selected for the upcoming game. League player of the month of April, Shuaibu Ibrahim from Giwa FC joins the league of first timers in the team as also Rangers of Enugu dashing left winger Onoriode Odah.Warri Wolves duo of Gbolahan Salami and Stanley Dimgba are also in the party as are Pillars’ duo of Azeez Shobowale and Ezekiel Mbah. Last season’s league topscorer, Mfon Udoh has netted four times in five league games this term before succumbing to a bout of illness recently but should recover in time for this national assignment. The dark-horse here is Joe Omale who plays for little-known non-league side, Dekina Dragons of Kogi and one hopes he will be brave enough to show his potentials in the midst of the elite league’s top stars.
One important feature in this team is that: It is a team filled with leaders at their respective clubs.
The national team selectors have done well in carefully selecting players that are not only doing well at the moment but those that presumably can handle the pressure of impressing over 100 million Nigerians.Azubuike Egwuekwe is the captain of Warri Wolves, Chinedu Udoji is the long-term skipper of Enyimba and Nelson Ogbonnaya has captained Heartland a couple of times this season, including in their home loss to Sunshine Stars. Though Chibuzor Okonkwo doesn’t wear the captain’s armband at Gabros, he is simply the leader at the newly-promoted club on and off the pitch. Charles Henlong is the captain of Giwa FC while Rabiu Ali is a leader and legend for Pillars.With the kind of confidence that Keshi has reposed in local based stars in recent times, one would expect that competition would be fierce in camp even when the foreign based stars come down to join them in jostling for places in camp.I will continue from here on Friday by taking a look at players who I think are worthy of invitation from North Africa and Europe to join these lads in building a strong unit.