The wait is over. Nigeria’s Russia 2018 World Cup campaign effectively begins tonight in Kaliningrad against Croatia.
The Eagles will also face Iceland, and perennial foes, Argentina in Group D actions.
Newslegend.com.ng’s IZUCHUKWU OKOSI runs the rules on five most sought after Eagles stars that could be subject of interests to club scouts watching the tournament.
1. Odion Ighalo
The Changchun Yatai striker will be Nigeria’s top striker at the World Cup and will surely be followed by scouts keen to bring him back to Europe from his Chinese stint.
Ighalo previously played for Udinese (Italy), Granada (Spain) and Watford (England) and there could be clubs from these countries willing to make bids for the striker who was instrumental in Nigeria’s qualification to the World Cup.
Ighalo recently revealed that he would not mind a return to the English Premier League and an inspired performance when Nigeria play Croatia could be the beginning of his return to European club football, and perhaps more specifically the EPL.
- Simeon Nwankwo
Crotone of Italy striker Simeon Tochukwu Nwankwo was unknown to many Nigerian football faithful this time last year.
However after a couple of eye catching performances for the modest Serie A club epitomized by the spectacular overhead kick goal against Italian kings, Juventus, the whole world stood up and took note of the beanpole striker.
Nwankwo sealed his place in Nigeria’s 23-man squad for the World Cup after his performance in Nigeria’s friendly game against Congo DR.
The striker did not score in the 1-1 draw but struck the post and generally tormented the visitors’ defence with his aerial prowess, skill and energy.
Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr indeed confessed that his team had lacked such a player before then.
Rohr now has an alternative to Ighalo. The former Nice manager could even unleash both strikers tonight in a two-man striking role.
Surely Nwankwo is unlikely to remain a Crotone player if he proves to be one of Nigeria’s best players at the World Cup.
- Francis Uzoho
When veteran Vincent Enyeama quit international football in controversial circumstances, there were some sections of Nigerians who were apprehensive over Nigeria’s goalkeeping hopes in Russia when Wolverhampton Wanderers custodian Carl Ikeme was diagnosed to have leukemia cancer.
Enyimba’s Ikechukwu Ezenwa shone at the West Africa Football Union (WAFU) Cup in 2017 and at the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Morocco in January 2018 but Uzoho stepped up to wrestle the gloves from the confident Ezenwa and kept in all Nigeria’s friendlies where he showed promise.
In 2014,Uzoho may have laughed off any suggestion that he could be in Nigeria’s squad at the World Cup four years later but that is a dream about to happen in our very eyes and a good performance in Russia will literally see him moving away from the youth team of Deportivo.
4. William Troost Ekong
Ekong is one of the famed Oyibo Wall in Nigeria’s central defensive players and will surely be followed by scouts after some inspired performances during the qualifiers and friendlies.
Ekong is a promising defender and a good outing in Russia could be the beginning of his exit from the Turkish top flight to perhaps one of the top five European leagues.
5. Wilfred Ndidi
I expect inspired performances from some Nigerian stars at the World Cup and one of the players that will be watched is Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi.
The former Genk of Belgium player replaced N’golo Kante who departed to Chelsea following the unlikely Premier League triumph of the Foxes under Claudio Ranieri.
Ndidi’s individual stats have usurped that of Kante’s as he is now one of the best defensive midfielders in European club football with the title win the only ‘team achievement’ the France international of Malian descent has over Ndidi.