By: Olawale Adigun
Just like Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa sang on the Single “Young, Wild and Free” , The Super Eagles we saw against the Chipolopolo of Zambia In Ndola looked every inch of that track title.
From the context of what Group B (The world famous group of death) looks like and the result from Blida (Algeria 1-1 Cameroon), the Super Eagles have had a flying and fantastic start to their campaign to be at the World Cup in 2018.
What made Nigeria’s first ever victory on Zambian soil impressive, was the fact that it was achieved with plenty of youth and a blend of experience. The Nigerian media and the world at large have not stopped waxing lyrical about Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi and Manchester City starlet Kelechi Iheanacho who also got Nigeria’s goals in the game. Before the game against Zambia, Genort Rohr talked about how important Alex Iwobi was to his plans for the Super Eagles “I count a lot on him to help us to win the game, he was not in the last game against Tanzania because he was injured. He a good player and I hope he is fully integrated for our first big match in Ndola”.
The youngster lived up to those high expectations with a majestic performance on his first start for the Super Eagles. Still on the theme Youth, the Super Eagles prosecuted the game with six players who are 23 years of age or under, three 28 year olds , a 24 year old and a 26 year old.
Moses Simon was full of youthful exuberance in Ndola and is still a diamond in the rough and will definitely improve with his decision making and final ball, Musa Mohammed looks like Nigeria’s solution to its problematic right-back position, Wilfred Ndidi (not a right-back) put in a decent shift by helping out the central defenders, Jamiu Alimi (who plays for Nigeria Professional Football League side, Kano Pillars) is highly rated defender by Genort Rohr, Obinna Nwobodo and Chisom Egbuchulam emerged as revelations of the just concluded NPFL season with Championship winning side Enugu Rangers Intl, while Victor Osimhen and Taiwo Awoniyi will get their chances with the Super Eagles in the nearest future. Add Feirense attacker, Oghenekaro Etebo and Isaac Success to the list and you realise that the future of Nigeria football is now and its safe and secure with these crop of players highlighted.
Experience is the best teacher they say, which ensures that these young players also need experienced heads to guide them and also help out in difficult situations. Return legs in Yaounde and Algiers will be very tough, tricky and difficult, hence the likes of John Obi Mikel, Ogenyi Onazi and Ahmed Musa are needed to help navigate the side out of trouble.
Moving forward, it is pertinent that these fresh bloods are also playing regularly with their clubs which is apparently key to match sharpness and the signs are obvious that the national team manager will pick his team based on form and fitness.
A general overview of 2016 might betray this article’s trust in youth with our failure to qualify for the Under-17 African Junior Championship and U-20 Africa Youth Championship which is a big blow to the development and progression of our players. But a woeful year for Nigerian football and be erased with the Super Eagles led by the youthful brilliance of Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi taking another giant step towards Russia 2018 with another win against Algeria in November in Nigeria.
These young guns are a confident group with all major household name in the squad hot in form and fun to watch. They are young, technically and tactically mature and free to express themselves.