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Ebonyi soccer enthusiasts hail Flying Eagles World Cup squad

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Abakaliki – Football enthusiasts in Ebonyi have hailed the 21-man Flying Eagles list released by Coach Manu Garba on Friday, for the forthcoming FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

The list, submitted to FIFA on Friday, comprises of three goalkeepers, six defenders, seven midfielders and five strikers.

Sports enthusiasts interviewed on Saturday in Abakaliki, commended the coaching crew for making a perfect selection, expressing, optimism that the players would win the cup for the country.

Chinedu Chukwugbo, former Golden Eaglets Goalkeeper, hailed Garba and his assistants, for using experience and current form, as the main criteria for selecting the team.

He urged all soccer fans to show understanding in the coaches’ decision.

“Garba decided to go for players who were with him since his U-17 days in 2013, as these players have been with him for long and are abreast with his soccer philosophies.

“This was the modality employed by former Super Eagles Coach, Jo Bonfrere during the 2000 AFCON, co-hosted by Nigeria and Ghana, as he selected players that had been with him from 1994.

“Nigeria however lost the trophy in the final against Cameroon, due to political manipulations,” he recalled.

A football fan, Benson Oleka, noted that out of the 21 players selected by Garba for the competition, 17 had been with him since his Golden Eaglets days in 2013.

“12 of the players were with him when he won silver at the African U-17 Championship in 2013, 12 also featured in the 2013 FIFA U-17 winning team, while 13 players featured in the 2015 African Youth Championship winning-team.

“This shows that the winning-mentality, unbridled tactical and behavioural discipline imparted on the players since 2013, will reflect at the World Cup, as evidenced by their `Super 6-league’and AYC successes.

“This is in addition to their 5-2 and 5-0 thrashing of the Hoffeiheim and Nuremberg U-23 teams in their preparatory matches in Germany,” he said.

Vincent Okpalaka, former Enugu Rangers International Football Club defender, also praised Garba for including players who were not part of the team’s training, but were doing well in their respective clubs.

“Players such as Kelechi Iheanacho, Isaac Success and Moses Simon, fall into this category, as they were held back by their clubs but would bring their ‘regular-playing time’ experience to bear in the competition.

“The edge Garba has over other Nigerian coaches, is that he manages external influence effectively, as the inclusion of these players was mooted by the Nigerian Football Association (NFA).

“But he accepted because he personally monitored the players’ form and found them worthy,” he said.

Chief Gabriel Ibekwe, a transporter, however disagreed with this assertion, noting that including players who never reported to the training-camp, could sent a wrong signal to the team.

“The players that were dropped would feel they were unfairly treated, after spending long weeks in camp, only to lose their places to players who did not even report to camp.

“This is the bane of the Super Eagles because some players feel that they have permanent shirts in the team whether they are serious or not , while those who always report to camp, are neglected,” he said.

Mrs Ebere Nwokpor, a civil servant, advised that the issue of the list should be put aside for the team to concentrate on the big task ahead.

“The players should realise that their impressive form has made them the target of other countries at the competition, and should re-dedicate themselves to the task in New Zealand.

“Nigerians should in turn, pray for them as impressive performance alone do not guarantee success at competitions, but issues such as luck and officiating,” she said. (NAN)

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