By Patrick Omorodion
Nigerian football lovers may be in for a shock treatment when the Africa Nations Cup kicks off on January 10, 2010 with the manner of players Super Eagles coach, Shaibu AmoduÂ finally announced Wednesday as his team to face Group C opponents, Mozambique, Benin Republic and defending champions, Egypt.
The list includes four players who are still nursing injuries or just recovering from one and burly Danny Shittu who has not been commanding any shirt in his lowly English Premiership club, Bolton Wanderers.
Alarmed by the list, sports journalists cornered him on his way to Durban, South Africa Wednesday to ask if he was convinced with the selection he made moreso when the pruning was done without any training session.
As usual, the Edo-born coach retorted thus â€œof course I am convinced of the players I have picked otherwise why would I announce a list I am not convinced aboutâ€, even though the list had one player more than the 23 required to be submitted by CAF for the competition.
His reason for the extra player was laughable. According to him, â€œObafemi Martins has convinced me that he would be fit to play before the competition begins so I have to include his name. If he is okay before the competition begins I will have to drop one of the attackers for him.â€
The attackers listed are Yakubu Ayegbeni, Osaze Odemwingie, Michael Eneramo, Obinna Nsofor, Chinedu Obasi and Martins himself. Among these players, Germany-based Obasi is most likely to be dropped as Amodu once said his inclusion in the Abuja match where Tunisia forced the Eagles to a 2-2 draw was as a result of the hype on him by the Nigerian sporting press.
The list generated a lot of argument from football enthusiasts and fans alike who queried the inclusion of Eagles vice captain and Everton of England defender, Joseph Yobo who is just recovering from injury andÂ Danny Shittu in the teamâ€™s defence that was the most suspect in the wobbly qualifiers.
The casualties on the 32-man list earlier drawn for the training tour of Durban are mostly the home-based players whom Amodu had sworn will not make the team as well as the Olympic Team players widely regarded as Samson Siasia boys who fought all through the qualifiers.
They include Chibuzor Okonkwo, Bassey Akpan, Bartholomew Ibenegbu, Olufemi Ajilore, Joseph Akpala, Olubayo Adefemi, Ayodele Adeleye and South Africa based Greg Etafia.
Apart from Yobo and Shittu who look suspect, team captain Nwankwo Kanu who sat through the last qualifier against Kenya in Nairobi and slow-paced Ayegbeni are other players who may not contribute much to the campaign.
The inclusion of midfielder, Oluwaseyi Olofinjana who has become a favourite of Amodu but appears not to provide the neededÂ link between the defence and attack like was noticed all through the qualifiers when opponents mounted pressure on the Eagles defence, is another major worry for football followers.
President of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi while speaking at the Appreciation Dinner put together for the team in Abuja before their departure for Durban, again called on Nigerians to pray for the team while they campaign in Angola, a sign that he may not totally believe in the ability of Amodu and his technical crew to deliver.
â€œI wish to implore the generality of our people to continue to have faith and confidence in the Nigerian team and also to continue to pray fervently for the success of the team as we enter a very crucial year in which we have plenty to celebrate,â€ he said