By Akinwale Kasali
After weeks of anxiety and waiting, Super Eagles Interim Coach, Augustine Eguavoen has named 28-players that will hoist the nation’s flag at the continental showpiece.
Criticism have trailed the indecisiveness of Eguavoen who was yet to name a team for the African Cup of Nations scheduled to commence in less than two weeks, while his other counterparts have named their squad.
However, the former Super Eagles player waited to release his long awaited list on Christmas Day to the surprise of many.
As expected, Eguavoen stucked with Three regular Keepers that was been used by his predecessor, Gernot Rohr, by naming Maduka Okoye, Francis Uzoho and Daniel Akpeyi as his goalkeepers for the tournament.
The inclusion of John Noble as the fourth choice keeper in the team wasn’t surprising as he was also given call ups under Rohr.
In the defensive line up, there was just one new introduction, in person of Orlando Pirates of South Africa defender, Olisa Noah making the list.
Eguavoen listed William Troost Ekong, Leon Balogun, Kenneth Omeruo, Abdullahi Shehu, Chidozie Awaziem, Jamilu Collins, Zaidu Sanusi and Olaoluwa Aina in the defense.
In the midfield, Alex Iwobi, Joe Ayodele Aribo, Fran Onyeka, Moses Simon, Samuel Chukwueze, Wilfred Ndidi and Chidi Ejuke made the list.
Captain of the 2015 Under-17 World Cup winner, Kelechi Nwakali was a surprise inclusion in the team. The Huesca Football Club of Spain player have waited patiently for a call up, and surprisingly, he made the cut for the continental showpiece.
Odion Jude Ighalo and Ahmed Musa made the list, despite calls for their removal from different quarters, lamenting that their days should be numbered in the Super Eagles fold.
Coach Eguavoen gave Union Berlin striker, Taiwo Awoniyi a call up to be part of his first major tournament for the Super Eagles since making his debut under Rohr.
Watford Football of England Striker, Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis will also be attending his first major tournament for the Super Eagles following his scintillating performance for the Hornets of Watford in the Barclays English Premier League.
Genk of Belgium Striker, Paul Onuachu was dropped from the AFCON Party due to the injury he sustained in his club a week ago, ruling him out of the tournament.
Kelechi Iheanacho’s inclusion was criticized by Soccer Enthusiast, Ekenne Nsofor, who said he shouldn’t have made the list because he hasn’t been playing for Leicester City for several weeks.
“The rationale behind the invitation of players in the National team is surprising, how could Iheanacho that hasn’t been playing make the squad and Cyril Dessers who have been scoring regularly for Feyenoord in the Eredivise League and in Europa League be left out of the team. It is disheartening and unfair”, he said.
However, James Onanuga, a Sport Journalist, applauded Eguavoen’s selection saying that it was a fair and good list.
“This is a good team that can win the tournament. At the moment, this is our best leg and it is not surprising that the Coach took his time to select his preferred players.
“The inclusion of Ighalo and Musa is a welcome one because this players have come of age and have the experience the team needs. We can’t go to such tournament with players that don’t have experience. I strongly believe that with this crop of players we are going to do well at the tournament and we are a team to beat and watch out for”.
The full list of the invited players for the AFCON tournament are:
Francis Uzoho (AC Omonia, Cyprus); John Noble (Enyimba FC); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor FC, Turkey); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Abdullahi Shehu (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal); Olisa Ndah (Orlando Pirates, South Africa)
Frank Onyeka (Brentford FC, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Galsgow Rangers, Scotland); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Kelechi Nwakali (SD Huesca, Spain)
Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Victor Osimhen (Napoli FC, Italy); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Sadiq Umar (UD Almeria, Spain); Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin, Germany); Odion Jude Ighalo (Al-Shabab Riyadh, Saudi Arabia); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Emmanuel Dennis (Watford FC, England)