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Eagles aim to soar highest in Brazil

TASHAN DENIRAN-ALLEYNE on the African champions

Nigeria can complete an international competition double when they head to Brazil as they aim to add the World Cup to their African Nations triumph last year.

After stuttering in the early stages of qualification they eased past Ethiopia to book their place at the finals but many consider the Super Eagles as rank outsiders to become the first African nation to lift the trophy.

Since the last World Cup it has been all change for the national team. Lars Lagerback resigned shortly after the tournament, his successor Samson Siasia lasted only a year after failing to qualify for the 2012 African Cup of Nations.

Stephen Keshi was appointed in November 2011 and during the two-and-a-half years in charge his stock has risen to cult status in Nigeria, culminating with the success in South Africa early last year.

The West Africans have been placed in a tricky looking group alongside one of the pre-tournament favourites Argentina, debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina plus Iran who are managed by former Real Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz.

If all goes to plan in the opener against Iran, the second group game with Bosnia will prove to be vital to their chances of progressing into the knockout stages for the first time since 1998.

The Super Eagles are expected to deploy a 4-3-3 formation with an emphasis on utilising pace and power of forwards Emmanuel Emenike, Victor Moses and Ahmed Musa.

With the lack of a playmaker in the squad, John Obi Mikel will be expected to once again take up that role. The Chelsea man plays with a freedom for the national side which could allow him to flourish in south America. 

The final 23-man squad threw up a few surprises, none more so than the exclusion of African Cup of Nations hero Sunday M’ba, who paid the price for his late arrival to training camp as well as showing a lack of hunger according to Keshi, which is starting to show in the rest of the side.

Speaking after the 0-0 draw against Greece earlier this week Keshi said: “We will always have very difficult games but the motivation will be to do a lot better than we managed in our last couple of games.”

Stoke City striker Peter Odemwingie has resolved his differences with the manager to take a spot on the plane, where there is also a place for Shola Ameobi who makes the list despite just registering two goals for Newcastle United last season.

Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Lille), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva), Chigozie Agbim (Gombe United).

Defenders: Elderson Echiejile (Monaco), Efe Ambrose (Celtic), Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor), Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea), Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod), Joseph Yobo (Fenerbahce), Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars).

Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea), Ramon Azeez (Almeria), Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio), Reuben Gabriel (Waasland-Beveren), Michael Babatunde (Volyn Lutsk).

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow), Shola Ameobi (Newcastle), Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce), Peter Odemwingie (Stoke), Michael Uchebo (Cercle Brugge), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Uche Nwofor (Heerenveen).

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