Saturday, February 24, 2024

AFCON 2023: Meet Nigeria’s AFCON Newcomers

Super Eagles coach, Jose Peseiro, called up nine AFCON debutants in his squad for the forthcoming continental showpiece in Ivory Coast. Here are the first-timers in the side eyeing a fourth AFCON title

Calvin Bassey

It’s been a mixed season for Bassey with Fulham this season but his performances for the Cottagers was enough to convince Peseiro to hand the defender a spot on the team.

The defender will hope to give a good account of himself at his first AFCON with the national team in a tricky Group A.

The 23-year-old has been heavily criticised for his underwhelming performance for the Eagles but now he has a chance to prove his doubters wrong in Abidjan.

Bassey has been a regular for Fulham this campaign and has made 17 appearances for the Cottagers and most notably sacrificed himself and picked up a red card in a match against Arsenal as they earned a 2-2 draw at the Emirates.

Ademola Lookman

Lookman’s skillful and creative style of play has been a highlight in Italy for Atalanta, where he has scored seven goals and provided three assists in 18 Serie  A appearances this season.

His inclusion in the Eagles squad adds versatility and attacking flair to the team’s forward line and he will be keen to add to his goal tally for Nigeria. In the pre-tournament friendly against Saudi side, Al Gharbi, on Sunday, the winger scored four goals for the Eagles as they claimed a convincing 12-0 win.

Terem Moffi

Moffi was called up to the Eagles squad as a replacement for the injured Victor Boniface on Tuesday. Moffi made his international debut in June 2021, scoring four goals in 14 games, but had initially failed to make the cut in coach Jose Peseiro’s side despite his six goals for Nice since the start of the season.

The 24-year-old has been pivotal for OGC Nice in the Ligue 1 this season as he bagged a brace against PSG on September 15 scoring the winner in the 3-2 victory.

Raphael Onyedika

Onyedika has been earning comparisons to France W’Cup winner Paul Pogba since last year and the 22-year-old versatile midfielder brings his skill and creativity to the Eagles squad.

He made his national team debut on September 27, 2022 and has since made three appearances for the Super Eagles while providing one assist.

Since joining Club Brugge in August 2022, Onyedika has made 72 appearances across all competitions for the Belgian club scoring one goal and providing one assist.

Alhassan Yusuf

Another Nigerian plying his trade for a Belgian side, Yusuf of Royal Antwerp is not only an AFCON newcomer but also a Super Eagles new boy. Yusuf was a last minute replacement for injured Leicester midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and the midfielder can make a name for himself at the competition.

Yusuf who last season won a double of both the Belgian Pro League and Belgian Cup, is although not at the same level as Ndidi but he is a quality ball winning midfielder. This season, he has made 23 club appearances across all competitions and has scored one goal and provided three assists.

Bright Osayi-Samuel

The Eagles starting right-back heading into the 34th edition of the AFCON, Osayi-Samuel is one of Nigeria’s players who have been in excellent form since the start of tue 2023/24 season.

The 25-year-old has appeared 24 times for Fenerbahce across all competitions this season, scoring two goals and registering four assists.

The Nigerian is one of Europe’s defender with highest number of assists this term. His service on the right flank will definitely help the team draw out opponents and as striker, Victor Osimhen, will hope, earn goals.

Stanley Nwabali

Nwabali is one of the two goalkeepers in the Eagles squad making their debut at the tournament.

The former Lobi Stars keeper, who had already been capped by the home-based Eagles, has been in great form for Chippa United, keeping seven clean sheets in 15 games and conceding 14 goals in South Africa’s topflight division.

Nwabili, known for his proficiency with his feet is not without quirks. His eccentric style is evident in the six yellow cards he has already received this season.

It remains to be seen if the 6ft5in keeper will be able to displace Francis Uzoho, whose inclusion in the AFCON squad has been heavily criticised.

Olorunleke Ojo

Enyimba’s first choice will battle Nwabili for the second choice position. Ojo is the only player from the Nigeria Premier Football League in the squad and he has blown hot and cold for the Enyimba this term despite their recent impressive results.

Ojo recently won the NPFL title in 2023 but despite his accolades, Ojo’s lack of international experience introduces an element of uncertainty.

Debuting in the pressure cooker of the AFCON might be a risk Peseiro is hesitant to take.

Bruno Onyemaechi

Determined to battle Zaidu Sanusi for the starting left back position, Onyemaechi has made 12 appearances for Boavista in the Portuguese topflight league this season has provided one assist.

Also capable of playing as a centre-back, Onyemaechi made his national team debut on September 10, 2023 in a 6-0 win over Sáo Tomé and Principé in the final group game of the AFCON qualifiers. He has gone on to make two more appearances for the Eagles.

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