By Jacob Ajom
True to his words, Chief Coach of the national team, Shaibu Amodu, yesterday, had the last laugh as he was able to convince chieftains of the Nigeria Football Federation to reduce the number of players to 24 instead of the 32 released to the media, penultimate week.
After a meeting involving the NFF leadership, members of the NFF Technical Committee and the Super Eaglesâ€™ technical crew at the NFF Secretariat in Abuja yesterday morning, eight players were dropped from the final training camp that starts in Durban, South Africa, on New Yearâ€™s Day.
Team Captain Nwankwo Kanu is set to make his sixth appearance in the continental showpiece, with his deputy Joseph Yobo and other â€œseniorâ€ players like Oluwaseyi Olofinjana and Yakubu Aiyegbeni also listed.
The three goalkeepers who were at the last competition in Ghana earlier last year also head to Angola, with youngster Elderson Echiejile close to realising his first African Nations Cup outing for Nigeria.
Those dropped include goalkeepers Greg Etafia and Bassey Akpan.Defenders dropped include, home-based star, Chibuzor Okonkwo, Olubayo Adefemi and Ayodele Adeleye while the midfielders dropped were another home-based star, Bartholomew Ibenegbu and Olufemi Ajilore. Joseph Akpala was the only attacker dropped from Amoduâ€™s list.
Only last week, Amodu had said in a parley with top sports editors and media managers in Lagos that if he was left to decide, he would have limited the number of invited players to 22 or 25 because of the limited time left for him to prepare the team for the Nations Cup, which begins on January 10 in Angola.
â€œOrdinarily, I would have loved to extend invitation toÂ Â as many players as possible, but I donâ€™t have the luxury of time to do that. Left for me, I would have limited the list to 22 or 25. Itâ€™s not an easy task for any coach to supervise 32 players in seven days,â€ Adamu had said.
NFF, therefore, saw reason in pruning the team. They need 23 but placed Chinedu Obasi on stand by. They were still not absolutely sure of the fitness level of injured Obafemi Martins. Obasi could be the 23rd player if Obafemi does not recover.
â€œIt is on this basis that we have placed Obasi and Greg Etafia on standby because even CAF allows a late change on grounds of injury,â€ media coordinator, Idah Peterside said from South Africa last night.