There are only a few minutes until Coach Stephen Keshi names his provisional World Cup squad. But just before he does, here is my own list. It is not a provisional list of 32 players. Instead, it is a list of players who will fly to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, if I were the Super Eagles coach.
VINCENT ENYEAMA (Lille, France): Since taking over from Ike Shorounmu after the 2002 World Cup, Enyeama has made the Super Eagles goalkeeper’s jersey his property. He has been in splendid form with his French club Lille, and was recently nominated by the Professional Union of French Players (UNFP) for the best goalkeeper award in the French Ligue 1. He is expected to be first choice in Brazil, and it will be his third, after earlier appearances at Korea/Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010.
AUSTIN EJIDE (Hapoel Be’er Sheva): Except during his brief first-choice stint during the reign of Berti Vogts as Super Eagles manager, Ejide has been playing second fiddle to Enyeama. At the moment, he’s out due to injury, but should be fit enough to make my squad.
CHIGOZIE AGBIM (Gombe United): He was unimpressive when leading the home-based Eagles to a third-place finish at CHAN in South Africa. I would easily sacrifice him for an additional outfield player if I’m sure that having only two keepers in my squad will not incur the wrath of Nigerians should Enyeama and Ejide sustain injuries
EFE AMBROSE (Glasgow Celtic): The first choice in defence. He played a pivotal role in the success of the team at last year’s Africa Cup of Nations. The Celtic defender has made the Eagles right-back position his own, and he’s not about to let go — a certainty barring injuries.
GODFREY OBOABONA (Caykur Rizespor): His involvement with the national team has greatly improved his game, far from the greenhorn he was during his time with Akure-based Sunshine Stars. Oboabona is a centre-back of repute who can hold his own among the very best strikers. This World Cup will be his first but certainly not his last.
KENNETH OMERUO (Middlesborough): His form for the Super Eagles is a reason team captain Joseph Yobo is struggling to pin down a shirt, and win his much-coveted 100th cap. Omeruo signed for Chelsea from Standard Liege in January 2012 and immediately went on loan to Dutch top-flight side ADO Den Haag, but he is highly rated by Stephen Keshi who kept faith in him despite not playing any first-team games on his return to Chelsea. He’s back on loan, this time with Middlesborough.
ELDERSON ECHIEJILE (AS Monaco): Despite not playing regularly for his Ligue 1 side, Monaco, Echiejile’s is Nigeria’s number-one left back, and it is highly unlikely that this will change during the World Cup – and beyond.
AZUBUIKE EGWUEKWE (Warri Wolves): The big Warri Wolves defender is more of a bit-part player with the national team. He will be a cover for injured and suspended players. His height will be of great advantage in aerial battles.
JOSEPH YOBO (Norwich City): His 13-year experience with the national team counted in his favour when drawing up this list. He may have lost his place during AFCON 2013 to Omeruo or fallen out of favour with Coach Keshi, but Yobo, a veteran of two World Cups, will come in as a substitute in one of the group games.
LEON BALOGUN (Fortuna Dusseldorf): Another bit-part player whose versatility – he can play at centre-back and right-back – will help the team as they hope to progress into the knockout stage. He got injured in his international debut against Mexico but should be fit to make the cut to Brazil.
MIKEL OBI (Chelsea): I was tempted to write ‘no comment’ here because whether he plays regularly or not for Chelsea, Mikel is the first name on the team sheet if fit. He missed South Africa 2010 through injury, but I hope he doesn’t, this time.
OGENYI ONAZI (SS Lazio): Man-of-the-match in the Super Eagles’ last World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia in Calabar, he is the national team’s man-of-the-moment. This will be his first senior World Cup – he was part of the 2009 u-17 World Cup team that lost to Switzerland in the final on home soil – but definitely not his last.
VICTOR MOSES (Liverpool): His lack of regular first team football with Liverpool won’t count against him. He rarely disappoints when in the green-white-green jersey. At the World Cup, expect Moses not to disappoint.
EMMANUEL EMENIKE (Fenerbache): At the moment, he is the most reliable striker in the country. He must stay fit because he may well be the difference between success and failure in Brazil.
AHMED MUSA (CSKA Moscow): A player is good, average, or poor but with Ahmed Musa you cannot say outright. He blows hot, cold, and lukewarm. Brazil experiences a Tropical Savannah climate, which sees warm temperatures and minimal rainfall in June and July. Musa, we hope, won’t go with the weather. The real Ahmed Musa will stand up and be counted at the World Cup, I hope.
OSAZE ODEMWINGIE (Stoke City): Yes, he fought Lars Lagerback. Yes, he fought Samson Siaisa. Yes, he fought Stephen Keshi. But he’s a top striker, though not world-class. He plays in the Barclays Premier League, though with Stoke — not Chelsea. He scores goals, though not regularly. Osaze’s choice is a footballing choice.
SHOLA AMEOBI (Newcastle): With 53 goals in 311 games (an average of 0.1 goals per game) for Newcastle, Ameobi can’t be classified as a prolific goal scorer, his two goals in five games for the Eagles notwithstanding. But the team will benefit from his calming presence and wise, old head in Brazil.
VICTOR OBINNA NSOFOR (Chievo): He will be on the bench but his speed and shooting abilities will be useful in latter stages of games. He can play with both feet.
SUNDAY MBA (CA Bastia): His move to France saved his career, which was on a nosedive after excelling at AFCON 2013, where he scored the only goal in the final against Burkina Faso. He can rekindle such form – coming from the bench.
NNAMDI ODUAMADI (Varese): Another squad player whose energy and keen eye for goals will be a plus to the team.
CHINEDU OBASI (Schalke 04): His injury worries are, hopefully, behind him now going by his fitness and form in Germany. His versatility – he can play as a winger and as a centre forward – will help the team in Brazil.
EJIKE UZOENY (Rangers): He was outstanding at the African Nations Championship in January. His vision and goals earned him the player of the tournament award. He will be a good squad player.
BROWN IDEYE (Dynamo Kyiv): Yet another option in the Super Eagles attack. Ideye will come in from the bench to wreak havoc to tiring opposition defenders.