Nigeria’s national football team coach, Jose Peseiro, has revealed the 25-man squad that will carry the hopes and dreams of a nation in the upcoming 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast.
Leading this formidable assembly of talent is Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, whose remarkable journey has seen him transcend setbacks to become a pivotal force in African football.
Osimhen’s absence from the 2021 AFCON finals due to a combination of injury and Covid-19 was a bitter pill for fans to swallow. However, his stellar performance in the previous season earned him the prestigious title of the 2023 African Footballer of the Year.
The 25-year-old secured his place in Nigerian football history and etched his name on the continental stage, becoming the first Nigerian man to claim the coveted individual prize since 1999.
Osimhen’s exploits didn’t stop there, as he clinched the eighth spot in the 2023 Ballon d’Or, a testament to his exceptional skills and impact on the global football landscape.
Joining Osimhen in the attacking arsenal are Bayer Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface, who boasts an impressive record of 10 goals in 16 Bundesliga appearances this season, and AC Milan’s Samuel Chukwueze.
The squad, carefully curated by Peseiro, features eight forwards in total, promising an exciting and dynamic offensive strategy.
Eight English-based players have earned their place in the squad, showcasing the depth of talent plying their trade in the demanding English leagues.
Notable names include Fulham’s Calvin Bassey, the versatile Alex Iwobi, and the Leicester City duo of Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho. With such a blend of domestic and international experience, Peseiro aims to strike a balance that will propel the Super Eagles to AFCON glory.
Despite the option to name a maximum of 27 players, Peseiro opted for a slightly more compact squad, leaving out attacking talents like Nice’s Terem Moffi, Trabzonspor’s Paul Onuachu, and Rangers’ Cyriel Dessers.
The decision highlights the coach’s confidence in the selected squad, emphasizing familiarity and cohesion over quantity.
Enyimba goalkeeper Leke Ojo is the only domestic player to make the cut in a surprising move. Peseiro, however, has not shied away from introducing competition, with Stanley Nwabili of Chippa United providing an alternative to established number one Francis Uzoho.
The goalkeeping situation presents a fascinating dilemma, especially considering Uzoho’s recent errors in friendlies. Despite the hiccups, Peseiro’s faith in Uzoho’s abilities remains unwavering, while Udinese keeper Maduka Okoye finds himself out of favour.
As the countdown to the 2023 AFCON finals begins, Nigeria finds itself in Group A, alongside Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau. The group stage promises intense competition, setting the stage for what could be a riveting tournament.
Analysis by Emmanuel Akindubuwa, reporting for BBC Sport Africa from Lagos, sheds light on the strategic choices made by Coach Peseiro. The decision to stick with familiar players who have been part of the coach’s plans for the past 18 months is a deliberate move aimed at ensuring cohesion and understanding on the field.
A critical aspect, as highlighted by Akindubuwa, is the goalkeeper selection. With Francis Uzoho facing competition from Stanley Nwabili, the goalkeeping position is up for grabs.
Peseiro’s personal visit to South Africa to observe Nwabili in action underlines the seriousness of the competition for the coveted spot between the posts.
Another area of intrigue is the midfield, with questions looming over who will orchestrate play. Wilfred Ndidi’s resurgence in form provides hope, but the midfield dynamics will undoubtedly be closely watched throughout the tournament.
One of the most notable returns to the squad is Ahmed Musa, Nigeria’s most capped player.
Despite some skepticism about whether his best days with the Super Eagles are behind him, Musa’s experience and leadership could prove invaluable in the quest for AFCON glory.
Victor Osimhen, once a fringe player in 2019, has now matured into a driving force for Nigeria’s national team.
His evolution symbolizes the team’s growth and determination, with the ultimate goal of clinching the AFCON title last achieved in 2013 under the late Stephen Keshi.
As Nigeria braces itself for the 2023 AFCON, the unveiled squad led by Victor Osimhen carries the aspirations of a nation hungry for footballing success.
With a blend of seasoned veterans and emerging talents, the Super Eagles aim to soar to new heights on the African stage, etching their mark in the annals of football history.
The journey begins on January 13, and fans eagerly await the unfolding drama that the AFCON 2023 promises to deliver.
This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members