The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is the most prestigious football tournament on the continent, featuring the best teams and players from across Africa. The next edition is scheduled to take place in January 2024, and Nigerian football fans are eagerly anticipating the emergence of new talents who could make a significant impact on the tournament.
In this regard, the Nigerian national team, also known as the Super Eagles, is not short of young and talented players who could rise to the occasion and help their team clinch the coveted trophy – just look at the form of Victor Osimhen this season as a shining example.
Read on to take a closer look at four other young Eagles who have the potential to make a mark in the upcomingtournament and help Nigeria win their first AFCON in over a decade.
A brief history of the Nigerian youth team
Nigeria is a proud football nation with a population of over 200 million and a rich history in youth football. As a result,Nigerian youth teams have often dominated global tournaments, with the ‘Golden Eaglets’ winning the Under-17 World Cup a record five times, and the U-20 team, the ‘Flying Eagles’, winning seven Africa U-20 Cup of Nations titles. To add to this, the ‘Olympic Eagles’ won the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games, beating Argentina in the final.
Many football legends have come off the Nigerian youth conveyor belt, including Nwankwo Kanu and Jay-Jay Okocha, often making an impact at youth tournaments before going on to wow the world with their talents.
In recent times, some Nigerian football critics have worried that modern life is restricting the flow of talent among the country’s youth rank. Political crisis in Nigeria is feared to affect the focus of domestic youngsters. The rise of technology, too, is a concern. Experts fear that the easy access to smartphones in Western Africa has led to a rise in problem gambling, with sports betting and online casinos just a few clicks away from impressionable minds.
Despite these worries, there are several bright sparks of hope for the national football team and the following four prodigies epitomize why Nigerian football fans can look to the future with optimism.
When Raphael Onyedika came on as a late sub for Nigeria in their 2-1 win over Algeria this year, not many fans batted an eyelid. But for the 21-year-old midfielder from Imo, it was a dream come true.
The youngster had aimed to make it into the international side following a solid start to the season with Belgian club ClubBrugge. From defensive midfield, he’s impressed fans and analysts with his incredible maturity and composure on the ball, demonstrating excellent dribbling and passing skills. He is also known for his ability to read the game and make intelligent decisions, making him a big asset to the team.
Onyedika’s success with Club Brugge has not gone unnoticed, and he’s already thought to be part of the Super Eagles’ next AFCON qualifying fixtures.
When Alhassan Yusuf received his maiden call-up for the Super Eagles last year, many expected the youngster to kick on and make the full team. However, a wealth of central midfield options in the squad have made it hard for Yusuf to break through.
This may change ahead of AFCON, though, with the 22-year-old putting in a series of solid displays for Belgian club Royal Antwerp. Although a deep-lying midfielder, Yusuf has the talent to make runs forward and can play box-to-box. He’s an active and energetic player who excels at disrupting the opposing attack, making him a primary distributor and initiator out of the back.
One criticism aimed at the player has been for him to develop more physically to improve tackling success and retain possession. Nevertheless, Yusuf’s statistics highlight a player who does many things well and is ready to compete for playing time in a top 4 league – as well as a place in the Super Eagles starting XI.
If it wasn’t for the incredible form of Osimhen this season, then surely more people would be talking about Terem Moffi.
The 23-year-old forward has been in stunning goalscoring form for Lorient this season and had reached double figures for the club by mid-November. While he has struggled to match his blistering start, Moffi has still been his side’s main attacking threat and has the attributes to form a potent partnership with Osimhen at the AFCON.
The youngster is an excellent finisher with both feet, has an impressive physical presence and is excellent at holding up play and bringing others into the game. His pace and ability to make runs behind the defence make him a dangerous player in counter-attacking situations. Although his decision making could be improved, Moffi has the potential to become one of Nigeria’s most important players.
After committing his future to Nigeria last year, Calvin Bassey is fully focussed on reproducing his club form for his country.
The highly rated centre-back has been a rock for Ajax after signing for them last season, and has played an integral part in the team’s pressing tactics. His aggressive nature, athleticism, and ability to read the game make him a threat going forward and solid in defence. Bassey is comfortable playing in a back four or wing-back system and has impressed with his positional awareness and willingness to cover for his teammates.
Many experts expect his ability to play both in the centre and at left-back crucial as Nigeria look to improve their defence before next year’s tournament.
If they get it right, then Bassey and his young teammates could go down in Nigerian history by becoming the fourth team to win the competition four times.
If you use the quotes from this content, you legally agree to give www.brila.net the News credit as the source and a backlink to our story. Copyright 2023 Brila Media.