Sports

Osimhen’s valuation and Eagles’ diverse forms ahead Ghana clash

Any match involving Nigeria and Ghana is a big fixture because of the rivalry between both sides. It has always been a tough duel because of the bragging rights involved when these neigbours clash. At the recent Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, Ghana crashed out in the first round after losing a crucial last group match 3-2 to debutants, Comoros. On the other hand, the Eagles under the tutelage of former international, Austin Eguavoen, recorded a clean sweep of three wins including the opener against Pharaohs of Egypt in the prelims only to lose the crunch Round of 16 game 1-0 to Tunisia. So, the early exit of both sides in the just concluded AFCON makes this encounter dicey.

The Ghanaians are not taking things lightly at all with a new technical crew announced just as Nigeria also strengthened the coaching crew of the Eagles with the injection of Emmanuel Amuneke as the head coach with Eguavoen still as interim overall boss, the manager. Already, March 25th has been confirmed for the first leg slated for Cape Coast while March 29th is the confirmed date for the return leg billed for Abuja, Nigeria.

The recent visit of coaches Eguavoen and Amuneke to London to see some of the players and their club managers was a good initiative. I was good for further bonding especially with the Zoom meeting arranged out there with other players not based in the UK.

It is also good to identify the problem areas in the team as regards the administrative aspects. On the game proper, it is great to see top stars on the team scoring crucial goals and making good impact for their respective teams. Odion Ighalo is based in Saudi Arabia but he has been in consistent scoring form for his team. Emmanuel Dennis of Watford will be a good addition in the team if he ready to play as he is the top scorer for his club. Moses Simon, a star player at AFCON last January, has continued with his brilliance in the colours of Nantes in France.

Taiwo Awoniyi and Sadiq Umar had a slow return to form in their clubs but they are both scoring again now. Paul Onuachu and Victor Osimhen both missed out of the AFCON due to injury but the two are not just back but they are scoring. Osimhen in a recent Serie A match against Cargliari came in as a substitute but he hit the target with a bullet header to end score at 1-1 and salvaged the match for his title chasing team, Napoli. His current valuation of 100m Euros by Napoli should be a thing of pride to every Nigerian.

Real Madrid and Manchester United are two of the top clubs interested in Osimhen and so without injury, he is a boost for this fixture. Also, Ademola Lookman who only recently switched his nationality to Nigeria is also in blistering form for Leicester in the EPL together with Wilfred Ndidi. A former international, Tijani Babangida, only recently expressed delight about the current form of the team and added that it could bring about selection headache for the handlers. “The way the Eagles are banging in goals is very good but Eguavoen and his other coaches could have problem in getting a starting line-up,” Babangida said.

On the other hand, however, most if not all the defenders in the team are not having the best of times in their respective clubs. William Troost-Ekong is no longer a starter for Watford, Leon Balogun is also warming the bench at Rangers in Scotland where another Nigerian, Calvin Bassey, yet to earn a call-up is regular player for the team.

Ola Aina, Shehu Abdulahi and Kenneth Omeruo are not faring better as well. This is a huge cause for concern which Eguavoen must deal with in the forthcoming fixture against the Black Stars of Ghana. The number one goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye, is also conceding goals anyhow in Holland and one wonders what keeper trainer Alloy Agu has been doing with the top national team goalies and why we cannot get a reliable number one in the current team. Vincent Enyeama’s standard was so high for the team but the qualities of the current top three goalies are not even up that of Enyeama if added together. Nigeria has a record of producing great goalies and so the current situation is disturbing. Eguavoen must use the midfield to further shield the defence while the strikers must be told to be clinical upfront to give the country an advantage on aggregates at the end of the two legs.

 

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