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Editorials, Sports

The Missing Stars from Nigeria’s 2023 AFCON Squad

Jose Peseiro and the Nigeria Football Federation have submitted a 40-man roster to the Confederation of African Football ahead of the 2023 AFCON.

  • Toyosi Afolayan
  • 21st December 2023
AFCON

The anticipation for the 36th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is building, with the release of the 40-man roster by Super Eagles head coach Jose Peseiro and the Nigeria Football Federation.

 

While the list includes familiar names like Victor Osimhen, Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Francis Uzoho, there are notable exclusions that have left fans and pundits surprised. Let’s delve into the stars who, despite their remarkable performances, will miss out on the continent’s biggest football fiesta.

 

 

Chuba Akpom – Ajax Amsterdam:

 

Ajax forward Chuba Akpom has been a goal-scoring sensation over the past 18 months, notching an impressive 28 league goals for Middlesbrough last season and continuing his fine form with eight goals in his last ten games for Ajax. Known for his versatility and ability to find the net in various ways, Akpom’s exclusion from Peseiro’s plans may raise eyebrows.

 

 

The 28-year-old’s adeptness as a center-forward or in the attacking midfield role adds depth to his skill set, leaving fans wondering why he won’t be donning the Super Eagles jersey in this edition of AFCON.

 

Gift Orban – KAA Gent:

 

A rising star in the football world, Gift Orban‘s goal-scoring prowess catapulted him into the limelight. Despite catching Peseiro’s attention and earning an invitation to the national team setup in October, issues with the Togo federation over his nationality have seemingly hindered his AFCON dreams.

 

 

Orban’s feat of netting the fastest hat-trick in the history of all European club competitions and surpassing Erling Haaland in hat-trick statistics this year made him a player to watch. Unfortunately, bureaucratic challenges have sidelined this promising talent from AFCON 2023.

 

Akor Adams – Montpellier:

 

In a season where European strikers are making headlines, Akor Adams has outshone them all. The 23-year-old forward tops the goal-scoring charts in Europe’s major leagues with an impressive 22 goals, a tally that has attracted interest from top clubs like West Ham United and AC Milan.

 

 

Despite his prolific performances, Peseiro remains unconvinced of Adams’ merit for a spot in the Nigerian squad to Ivory Coast, leaving fans questioning the decision to exclude this in-form striker.

 

Maduka Okoye – Udinese:

 

Goalkeeper Maduka Okoye’s journey from the Fortuna Düsseldorf reserve team to becoming the Super Eagles’ number-one shot-stopper has been a remarkable one. However, a pivotal moment at the 2021 AFCON marked a downturn in his fortunes. Okoye’s unfortunate error allowed Tunisia to secure a crucial win, and since then, he has not featured for the national team.

 

 

Despite a change in club scenery to Udinese, Peseiro has opted for other goalkeeping options, leaving Okoye on the sidelines for AFCON 2023.

 

Ismail Sodiq:

 

Widely regarded as the best full-back in the Nigeria Premier Football League, Ismail Sodiq brings a dynamic skill set to the table. With nine assists already in the league this season, Sodiq’s attacking prowess and defensive commitment make him a valuable asset.

 

 

While overseas-based players like Ola Aina and Bright Osayi-Samuel are in contention, Sodiq’s absence from the squad raises questions about the selection criteria and the potential impact he could have had on Nigeria’s AFCON campaign.

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