Crunch time is almost upon us and excitement fills the air as football unites Nigeria once more. The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations was a long time coming for the Super Eagles, having played in two World Cups since last featuring in an AFCON. The Eagles can finally ‘defend’ their 2013 title in the actual tournament after failing to qualify for the last two.

 Another young squad is tasked with carrying the hopes of over 200 million football-crazy Nigerians. 20 of the 23 players going to the tournament will be making their AFCON debuts, although John Obi Mikel, Ahmed Musa and Kenneth Omeruo are one-time champions.

The exciting team consists of NINE attackers, most of whom ended their club season in fine form. Headlined by Galatasaray top scorer Henry Onyekuru with 16 goals and six assists for the domestic Double winners, Victor Osimhen who notched 20 goals for Charleroi and FC Midtjylland’s Paul Onuachu with 19. Samuel Chukwueze also had a starring season for Villareal in the Spanish La Liga and the 20-year-old is a livewire attacker who could drag the Eagles out of trouble but creative hopes still rest on Alex Iwobi’s shoulders.

Alex Iwobi would look to light up Africa. Image Credit: Getty Images

 The squad problems lie in defence for Gernot Rohr; the goalkeeping situation is yet unknown following Francis Uzoho’s underwhelming season at Famagusta and Kaizer Chiefs’ Daniel Akpeyi looks set to take over the gloves, he however is largely unproven with the Super Eagles despite a start in last week’s warm-up friendly against Zimbabwe.

Betway Nigeria

 In front of the ‘keeper, Kenneth Omeruo has been solid in green and white of late but it remains to be seen whether Leon Balogun would be favoured alongside William Troost-Ekong. While Omeruo’s form cannot be ignored, the ‘Oyinbo wall’ had a distraught season sitting on the Brighton bench, pertinently, he maintains a solid defensive partnership with Troost-Ekong for the national team.

Jamilu Collins and Ola Aina seem set to man each fullback position but when Rohr decides to switch tactics to a 3-5-2, he has the luxury of employing the more attack-oriented pair of Moses Simon and Samuel Kalu.

Gernot Rohr has a huge task of guiding his talented squad.

Balancing this team is the greatest selection headache facing Rohr who hasn’t got his attackers firing just yet. They would look to put paid to that however, in another warm-up friendly against fellow AFCON favourites Senegal on sunday.

 Being the youngest team at the 2018 World cup, 15 of that squad in Russia are in Egypt as one of the youngest yet again. This squad isn’t particularly lacking in international tournament experience, and combined with youthful agility is vital in African football. John Mikel Obi is in the squad for a final hoorah with the Super Eagles, it is hoped that his pedigree as much as his calmness on the pitch would inspire his teammates to greatness.

The Super Eagles. Image Credit: Twitter/William Troost-Ekong.

 Burundi, Guinea and Madagascar must be quaking in their boots at the thought of this talented Nigeria squad. Gernot Rohr’s only task now is to ensure it produces a team Africa can be proud of.


Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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