There are very few things that divide opinion more than the announcement of Nigeria’s final squad for a major tournament.
Whether it’s the FIFA World Cup or the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), rarely does the Super Eagles’ not attract any form of controversy.
Ahead of the 2023 AFCON in the Ivory Coast, Jose Peseiro finds himself in a tug-of-war with the media and fans after releasing his squad for the tournament. It’s fair to say the Nigeria coach has done himself no favours with some of his selections but a chunk of the players are there on merit.
The usual suspects like Francis Uzoho, William Troost-Ekong, Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho have been included in the squad. Captain Ahmed Musa is also there despite the controversy surrounding his inclusion.
But while a lethal strike force led by Victor Osimhen and Victor Boniface spearheads this Super Eagles side, the thinness of their midfield options and the lack of quality in the goalkeeping department remains a source of worry.
Below, we take a look at some players who surprisingly missed out on Nigeria’s squad for the AFCON:
Terem Moffi must be hard done by Jose Peseiro’s decision to exclude him from the final list for the tournament. The 24-year-old has been in and out of the national team since making his debut in 2021.
However, despite the strong competition in Nigeria’s striking department, 2023 must have felt like the year where he probably deserved his chance.
After scoring six goals and providing two assists in Ligue 1 this season, Moffi’s form certainly puts him ahead of some of the options in Poseiro’s squad.
His place in the squad would’ve been behind Osimhen and Boniface in the pecking order but Moffi’s outright omission comes as a surprise, considering how good he has been for OGC Nice this season.
Another player whose exclusion from Nigeria’s squad comes as a shock is Belgium-based Alhassan Yusuf.
The midfielder has been a revelation since moving to Royal Antwerp, where he has helped the club to win every domestic trophy, including lifting the league title last season.
With Nigeria short on midfielder options, Yusuf would’ve been a good backup to Wilfred Ndidi due to his versatility across the middle of the park.
However, it seems Peseiro doesn’t rate him that much, hence leaving Yusuf out of the five-man midfield he selected for the AFCON.
Adebayo Adeleye is one of few Nigerian players who have risen through the ranks from U17 and U20 to the senior national team.
The 23-year-old goalkeeper has been capped just once but he remains one of the country’s most active shot-stoppers in Europe at the moment.
With Maduka Okoye out of contention, the Hapoel Jerusalem goalkeeper had a shout to deputise for Francis Uzoho during the AFCON, but he will have to watch from home as Uzoho, Leke Oko and Stanley Nwabili head to the Ivory Coast as Nigeria’s goalkeeping options.
It has taken some time for Kelechi Nwakali to get his professional career going but this year has proven to be a productive one for him.
The midfielder was part of Nigeria’s golden generation of talent that won the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup, alongside Victor Osimhen.
But while Osimhen’s career has had a huge lift in the last three years, Nwakali, who won the golden ball at the tournament eight years ago, has had to navigate an unconventional route following an unsuccessful stint with Arsenal.
Currently on the books of Portuguese side Chaves, Nwakali has played 14 matches and registered three assists this season. His creativity and attacking verve would’ve been a weapon for Nigeria at the AFCON, especially with Joe Aribo being the only recognised no.10 in the squad.
However, he will once again be missing out on a major tournament.