AFCON 2013: First timers dominate Eagles’ squad

The Nigeria Premier League received a massive boost yesterday as six of the league’s players made the 23-man team of Nigeria to the 29th Africa Cup of Nations holding in South Africa from January 19 to February 11.

Enugu Rangers’ newly-signed Chigozie Agbim joined Israel-based duo of Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide to complete the goalkeepers’ slots while Sunshine Stars’ Godfrey Oboabona, Warri Wolves’ Azubuike Egwuekwe, Kano Pillars’ Reuben Gabriel and Rangers’ duo Ejide Uzoenyi and Sunday Mba made up the six NPL players.

In an AFCON squad replete with 17 first time participants in the finals, USA-based Bright Dike, who rescued Nigeria from the Catalonia loss in a friendly last week as Nigeria drew 1-1 with the star-sprinkled side, and Ukraine-based Brown Ideye, whose knack for scoring in the Ukrainian league this season has enjoyed rave reviews, were dropped by Coach Stephen Keshi in what explains the gaffer’s difficulty as pruning his initial 32-man squad.

But junior international Kenneth Omeruo, who recently joined Chelsea but was immediately loaned to Dutch side ADO Den Haag, made the final cut.

Captain Joseph Yobo, who made his AFCON debut at Mali 2002, will be making his sixth appearance, punctuated by Nigeria’s absence at the 2012 finals in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea, to equal the record held by former captain Nwankwo Kanu for the most finals appearaces.

Meanwhile, Nigeria will take on Cape Verde later today in the Super Eagles’ final warm-up game before departing for South Africa on January 16 to finalise preparation before their first Group C game with Stallions of Burkina Faso on January 21.

Author: AFOLABI GAMBARI

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