Super Eagles coach Jose Peseiro has come under knocks after he released a list of players that was dominated by benchwarmers and inactive players, as well as an amateur, for the AFCON qualifying double-header against Guinea-Bissau. ANTHONY NLEBEM and ABIODUN ADEWALE review the Portuguese’s squad list
The Nigeria Football Federation announced a 23-man squad for the double-header against Guinea-Bissau on Thursday, with coach Jose Peseiro unveiling a squad list that was greeted with scathing criticisms in the media.
Since taking charge of the Super Eagles May 15, 2022 the 62-year-old gaffer has overseen six matches in all competitions managing two wins, three defeats, and one draw.
Portuguese Peseiro’s two victories came in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Sierra Leone (2-1) and Sao Tome and Principe (10-0).
But his side lost to Mexico (2-1), Ecuador (1-0), Algeria (2-1) and Portugal (4-0).
The three-time African champions’ below par performances in these games means Peseiro has not been able to win the hearts of the country’s teeming but highly critical and football-crazy fans.
The coach again felt the heat recently, when critics tore at him on social media after his latest list for Friday’s (today) 2O23 AFCON qualifier against Guinea-Bissau and the reverse fixture three days later in Bissau was released March 16.
A look at Peseiro’s squad list shows it includes some controversial names, with captain of the Flying Eagles that finished in third-place at the recently-concluded Africa U-20 Cup of Nations in Egypt, Daniel Bameyi invited alongside team goalkeeper Chijioke Aniagboso.
While Bameyi reportedly featuring for an unknown amateur side YumYum FC, Aniagboso is with second-tier domestic league side Giant Brillars and will contest for the No.1 spot with Cyprus-based Francis Uzoho and Rivers United’s Victor Sochima.
Close observers of the squad feel the Portuguese crossed the line in calling up both players.
“It’s very funny that a foreign coach like Peseiro will do this kind of thing in Nigeria, something that is not done in his own country,” football analyst Ralph Chidozie-George told The PUNCH.
“First of all, the national team of any country is not a free-for-all for players, it’s strictly for elite players, and non-league players have no place, except on rare occasions when you have exceptionally talented players.
“Bameyi’s case is that of an average player. If he was that good, he wouldn’t be playing with YumYum FC, a team that only exists by name. That team is non-existent, it must have been created to market this player.
“So, such a player with average talent doesn’t belong to the Super Eagles. Even in the Flying Eagles, where he was made captain, he wasn’t an exceptional player. Bameyi is a quota system player who is only being marketed by the invitation and once he is sold abroad, you won’t hear of YumYum FC again.”
On Aniagboso, Chidozie-George added, “There are other good goalkeepers in the NPFL who can also be invited other than Aniagboso. Sochima was invited from the NPFL and there are others like him. What football has Aniagboso been playing with an NNL side to merit an invitation to the Super Eagles? We have a goalkeeper in Israel, Adebayo Adeleye, who is doing well, and we have others in the NPFL. If you remember, when the U-20 team arrived in Egypt, Peseiro was there and was waxing lyrical about these average players, some of whom won’t even make the eventual U-20 World Cup squad.”
The list for the double-header clash against the Wild Dogs also include players that have largely warmed the bench and played bit roles at their European clubs.
Peseiro called up Southampton midfielder Joe Aribo, who has fallen out of favour at the St Mary’s Stadium, and has not made new manager Ruben Selles’ squad in the last six games, after he was demoted to the U-23 team. Before then he made an 11-minute appearance in their 2-1 defeat at home to Wolves and was left on the bench for three consecutive games.
After a celebrated move to the Premier League from Belgian side Genk — where he scored 79 goals in 114 games — last January, big striker Paul Onuchu’s ‘dream move’ to Southampton has seen him manage just 269 minutes of action in six appearances. Nonetheless, he got Peseiro’s nod for the AFCON qualifiers.
Centre-back Kenneth Omeruo has endured an injury-ravaged season in Spain’s second-tier with Leganes, which has seen him play just 13 games out of 32.
He hasn’t played regular football since he was injured last September, and was left out of national duty during the friendly against Portugal last November before his latest invite. He was only fit for the bench in Leganes 1-0 home loss to Real Oviedo last Saturday.
One of the most high-profile benchwarmers invited is captain Ahmed Musa, Nigeria’s most capped footballer with 107 appearances. However, the 30-year-old’s career has witnessed a downward curve in recent times, with the winger returning home in 2021 to try and revive his career at boyhood club Kano Pillars.
Musa moved to Turkish side Sivasspor last September but is yet to score or even make an assist after 13 games this season.
Chidozie-George insists Musa and the other benchwarmers have no business in the national team.
“Even the captain, Ahmed Musa, has no place in the Super Eagles. I have said it before that the list looks like the one done last year; it doesn’t look like a list done in 2023, when we have Nigerian players performing optimally around the world, especially in the attack, where Musa is listed as one of them. That is not what we should be expecting,” Chidozie-George added.
“What football has Aribo played in recent time to merit an invitation to the national team? We have players performing week-in-week-out but were not invited.
“Same for Onuachu, his last good outing was in Belgium. So, did we invite him based on that?”
Peseiro’s squad, however, includes players with eye-catching performances week-in-week-out in the top European leagues. And top on the list is Napoli’s dangerous striker Victor Osimhen
The 24-year-old has scored 21 goals in 23 league games, while also hitting the target four times in five Champions League appearances.
Osimhen is one of the most sought-after strikers in the world at the moment and has turned heads with his clinical displays for the Partenopei and helped them go 19 points clear at the top of Serie A.
Alex Iwobi played a key role in ensuring Everton survived the drop last season, and he continued his fine form this term.
Even though Everton may be sitting just two points above the relegation zone in the Premier League standings, the midfielder’s performance and commitment cannot be questioned.
The 26-year-old has featured in all the Toffees 28 Premier League games this season, scoring one goal with six assists.
Winger Samuel Chukwueze is also enjoying one of his best seasons at Villarreal, and fired a warning to the Wild Dogs after he hit target again — for his sixth league goal — on Sunday as Villarreal thrashed Osasuna 3-0 at Estadio El Sadar, before heading to Nigeria.
Ademola Lookman’s invitation is unquestionable following his performances at new club Atalanta this season.
The 25-year-old Nigerian forward started the season on a bright note and has been impressive for Gian Piero Gasperini’s side scoring 12 goals with five assists in 26 league matches this season, making him joint-third leading scorer in Serie A with Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, behind compatriot Osimhen (21 goals) and Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez (14 goals).
Nice striker Terem Moffi started the 2022/23 lseaon on a high note and has not shown signs of slowing down. With 60 per cent shot accuracy, the 23-year-old has scored 15 goals in Ligue 1 and is among the front runners for the top scorer award in the league.
Porto defender Zaidu Sanusi suffered a tear in his abductor’s muscle and missed two months of action, but he returned in February and was immediately reinstated as Porto’s first choice left-back.
The 25-year-old made eight appearances before the international break, taking his total appearances this season to 28 across all competitions.
One of the eight defenders called up by Jose Peseiro ahead of the Eagles double-header against Guinea-Bissau, Bright Osayi-Samuel will hope to pick up from where he left off when he last turned out for the Eagles.
The Fenerbahçe defender made his debut in November 2022, when Nigeria lost 4-0 to Portugal in a friendly, featuring for 90 minutes at right-back and was named the Eagles best player of the night after a solid performance.
The 25-year-old has been on the ascendency for his Turkish club and made 30 appearances this season.
Goalkeeper Francis Uzoho is currently Nigeria’s best shot-stopper in Europe this season, according to statistics website Tranfermarkt, and thus deserves his place in the team.
The in-form Omonia Nicosia goalkeeper, who is favoured to start against the Djurtus today, has kept eight clean sheets in 16 games, conceding 12 goals so far this term – the best return so far among the top Nigerian goalkeepers in Europe.
Centre-back Kevin Akpoguma has been a key member of TSG Hoffenheim’s backline, having started five of their last six games before the international break.
The 27-year-old defender was named in Whoscored.com’s German Bundesliga Team of The Week for his performance in Hoffenheim’s 3-1 win over Hertha Berlin at the weekend and what a way to resume action with the national team.
Calvin Bassey has endured criticisms in his first season at Dutch giants Ajax but he has largely proved himself at the Johan Cruyff Arena. He has made 23 appearances out of 26 league matches this season.
West Bromwich Albion defender Seni Ajayi’s season has been hit by injuries. The 29-year-old suffered a ligament injury last August and was ruled out for 56 days. Since his return from injury, he has struggled to find form and played just 121 minutes in 2023.
Brentford midfielder Frank Onyeka has managed 13 league appearances in 61 minutes of Premier League football in three months.
Hardworking Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi recently returned from injury and has struggled for form and has featured in only five Premier League games in 2023.
Ndidi’s countryman Kelechi Iheanacho hasn’t been in great scoring form for the Foxes as well, the 26-year-old striker has netted three times in 23 Premier League appearances, as well as another three in the FA Cup.
Also, winger Moses Simon has played predominantly this season but has not been in his finest form and has netted five goals and contributed three assists in 24 league matches.
Uncapped Chuba Akpom just can’t stop scoring in the Championship right now, but why did Peseiro ignore him? Akpom struck his 24th goal of the Championship season on Saturday to give Middlesbrough the lead against Preston North End in their second-tier clash.
Also left out is Gent’s Gift Orban, who has grabbed the headlines in Europe after he scored four goals in a Belgian league game, before hitting a hat-trick in three minutes in Gent’s 4-1 thumping of Istanbul Basaksehir in the Europa Conference League Round of 16.
Super Royale Union Saint Gilloise striker Victor Boniface’s has scored 19 goals with eight assists in 43 appearances in all competitions in the 2022/23 season but was left out.
Tyronne Ebuehi, 27, has been in fine form this season and has featured in 10 Serie A matches for Empoli in 2023.