Qualification to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivorie had long been bagged but the Super Eagles of Nigeria took on Sao Tome and Principe Sunday evening in a dead rubber qualifying game with only leadership of the Group A of the campaign in Africa at stake.
Super Eagles head coach Jose Peseiro had been criticized in some quarters for a supposed overkill as he went for almost an entirely foreign-based players to prosecute the game at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo.
Prime Business Africa’s Izuchukwu Okosi presents five observations from the game.
1. Attacking Options For Super Eagles
The team welcomed two new members of its attacking force in the persons of Victor Boniface and Gift Orban.
The former made his international debut for Nigeria while the latter only misses out due to injury in training.
Despite the team relying mostly on the firepower of Napoli hitman Victor Osimhen for its goals – he bagged a hat-trick on Sunday – it is gratifying to note that the team have in their arsenal, two quality forwards who are in great form for their respective European clubs.
The Bayer Leverkusen and Gent strikers will strike fears in the defenders that they face.
The prospect of playing at the AFCON is already tantalizing by the thought of it.
2. The ‘Return of Ndidi’
Super Eagles midfielder Wilfred Ndidi was captain of the day as the team romped to a 6-0 thrashing of Sao Tome and Principe in Uyo.
Ndidi who went down to the Championship with Leicester City along with teammate, Kelechi Iheanacho, produced a very impressive performance to show what he can still offer at the highest level.
Ndidi suffered some poor form which saw his hitherto rating as one of the best defensive midfielders in England plummet.
On Sunday, the rangy midfielder seemed to found his rhythm and such performances would only stand him in good stead ahead of the January transfer window.
3. Osimhen Eyes Yekini Feat
Napoli superstar and 2023 Ballon D’Or nominee, Victor Osimhen scored a hat-trick on Sunday evening to take his goals tally in the qualifying series to 10.
Thus far, Osimhen has scored 20 international goals in 26 appearances for Nigeria.
The former Weder Bremen and Lille striker who was courted by Manchester United, as well as Saudi Arabian big spenders Al Hilal, in the summer transfer window is now 17 goals away from equalling the record of the late legend, Rashidi Yekini.
Yekini who scored Nigeria’s first FIFA World Cup goal in USA ’94 had 37 goals to his credit but Osimhen is looking increasingly likely to reach that height and surpass it.
4. Goalkeeping Conudrum
Super Eagles head coach Jose Peseiro handed APOEL Nicosia goalkeeper Francis Uzoho the gloves for Sunday’s game in Uyo.
Uzoho was virtually untroubled throughout the duration of the game as the opponents had zero goal attempt in the no-contest.
Peseiro could have let Enyimba’s Ojo Olorunleke the chance to show what he can offer in the match.
If Peseiro persisted in inviting the foreign legion, it would have also been a great idea to invite some keepers who have shown promise for their clubs but yet to play for Nigeria.
Swiss-born Sebastian Osigwe is a good example.
5. Onyemaechi’s Impressive Debut
Boavista of Portugal’s Bruno Onyemaechi’s debut went to script as he was impressive at left back.
The defender did his primary job diligently and and was also an outlet in the attacking phase of the game.
This ensures that the fight for a place in that position between him and the likes of Zaidi Sanusi, Jamilu Collins and Ebube Duru will be intense.
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Izuchukwu Okosi is a Nigerian sports and entertainment journalist with two decades of experience in the media industry having begun his media journey in 2002 as an intern at Mundial Sports International (MSI) and Africa Independent Television (AIT), owners of Daar Communications Plc.
In October 2004, Okosi joined Complete Communications Limited, publishers of Complete Sports newspaper and Complete Football magazine as a reporter and later script writer for the Complete Sports studio.
He worked there for 13 years until October 2017.
Okosi also worked various times as Correspondent, Content creator and Editor at Sports Market International Magazine, Opera News, All Nigeria Soccer Media and Iconic Media Watch.
He also undertook freelance writing gigs for some local and international organizations.
Okosi is a member of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Association of Voiceover Artistes of Nigeria (AVOA), Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) and Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
He has been part of cast in some Nollywood movies and radio dramas including Blood Money 2, Scores To Settle, Dead End 2, Another Campus Tale and Battle Line.
Aside mainstream media and the entertainment industry, he has interests in scouting/unearthing of talents in the sports and creative sectors, exports business and property development.