Nigerians will find it tough to make final cut, says Ezeugo

John Obi Mikel (C) of Nigeria controls the ball next to Lars Bender (L) and Sven Bender of Germany during their Rio 2016 Olympic Games men’s semifinal football match at the Arena Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil on August 17, 2016.  Miguel SCHINCARIOL / AFP

John Obi Mikel (C) of Nigeria controls the ball next to Lars Bender (L) and Sven Bender of Germany during their Rio 2016 Olympic Games men’s semifinal football match at the Arena Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil on August 17, 2016.<br />Miguel SCHINCARIOL / AFP

Former Super Eagles’ player, Emeka Ezeugo, has declared that the trio of Kelechi Iheanacho, Mikel Obi and Ahmed Musa would find it tough to make the final shortlist for the 2016 CAF African Footballer of the Year award. Emeka’s position is that the standard of play by most African footballers in recent times has made the award highly competitive.

Ezeugo, who commended the Nigerian players for being shortlisted out of the galaxy of stars in Africa, stated that the performance of the Musa, Mikel and Iheanacho for their clubs and national teams is worthy enough to earn the players the nomination.

He posited that the other African players shortlisted for the awards have qualities that are worthy enough to emerge winners.“I am happy that three players from Nigeria made the nomination for the 2016 CAF awards. But from my own perception, I think it would be tough for Mikel, Musa and Iheanacho to make the final three. They are good players, but the galaxy of stars in the list and their performance in recent times could be a big obstacle for them. “I believe the standard for selecting the winners for the CAF awards is high at the moment,’’ he said.

Even on the face of Ezeugo’s skepticism,Nigerians have hailed the three Nigerians for making the list of nominees.The Confederation of African Football late on Saturday in Cairo released the list of 30 shortlisted players, including three Nigerians, Mikel Obi of Chelsea, Ahmed Musa of Leicester City and Kelechi Iheanacho of Manchester City alongside 25 nominees for African Player of the Year, based in Africa.

According to the Group Sports Editor of Nation Newspapers, Ade Ojeikere, “This is a good development. Let’s hope that they will eventually make the top three and one of them will pick the award after many years.”

Also, former international, Victor Ikpeba, popularly known as ‘Prince of Monaco,’ believes the nomination of the Nigerian players will inspire other footballers across the world to work harder and make the country proud next season.

“The nomination of Kelechi, Mikel and Musa is a good development and will encourage others. Hopefully, we will have more Nigerians on the list next year.” Ikpeba, a former African Player of the Year added.

Also speaking on the list, Mr. Taiwo Adelu, Sports Editor of PM Express Newspapers, said, “This is encouraging. Looking forward to Top 10 and hoping the Nigerians will make it and move on to the Top 3.”

Other notable names in the list are reining African Footballer of the Year, Gabon and Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Cameroun’s Samuel Eto’o, the duo of Islam Slimani and Riyad Mahrez of Algeria and Leicester City of London. 

Also on the list are Andre Ayew of Ghana and West Ham United, Victor Wanyama of Kenya and Tottenham and Cote d’ Ivoire’s Eric Bailly and Yao Kouasi Gervais (Gervinho) of Manchester United and Hebei Fortune FC respectively.

CAF will release a shortlist of Top 10 players in the coming weeks.

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