Two things happened to me when I read the list of Stephen Keshi to the ACN. I was encouraged by the boldness and courage displayed with the kinds of players invited particularly the home based Eagles. Secondly, I felt a sense of ‘De’ javu’ due to the fact that I had ‘seen’ a list that excluded most notably Osaze Odemwengie. Having the likes of Martins and Taiwo shunted out of the team is not really surprising. They have not been prominent in the Super Eagles lately have they?
I guess Osaze long running battles with different national team managers over the past played a role in his ouster from the squad. His attitude to training and well publicized outburst against Samson Siasia couldn’t have helped his case with Keshi who is known to be a tough customer. His frequent social media comments on happenings in the team are well documented and most coaches are never comfortable with this type of personality.
This said, the list of 32 players revealed that Keshi must be convinced in his resolve to shake up the squad. The greatest indication of this is the fact that out of the 32 man tentative list schedule for the training camp in Faro, Portugal, 9 are home based players. This is a clear departure from our recent past when the whole team was usually made up of foreign based players. Never mind the fact that most of them were perpetual bench warmers.
One of the best ways to ensure success in a team is to foster healthy competition for starting places. The greatest teams always paraded the best players at any given time. Where players do not put in the right shift in particular matches, they are replaced with others who are hungrier, more determined and dedicated. This has been lacking in the Super Eagles for a long while until Siasia and Keshi took bold steps to correct the glaring anomaly.
What remains for the coaching personnel to do before announcing the final list of 23 players before the deadline of January 9, 2012 is to ensure that only the best and fit are picked. Coach Keshi and his assistants must put the Nations interest above all other and ensure that the best possible team is assembled for the tournament.
Early preparations and training always ensure decent performance for this kind of tournament. I believe the friendly against Catalunya (Spanish selected side) would indicate what kind of side we should be expecting when the final list would be revealed.