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Nigeria's CHAN squad: Five key talking points

In light of Nigeria's squad announcement for the upcoming African Nations Championship, KweséESPN presents five major talking points from coach Salisu Yusuf's inexperienced selection.

High-profile omissions

Kingsley Eduwo and Sikiru Olatunbosun were the biggest names cut from the CHAN-bound Eagles' squad.

The attacking duo were surprisingly omitted despite being a part of the team from the formative stages, with Eduwo netting the winner in the qualifier against Benin, a goal which sealed Nigeria's place at the tournament.

Olatunbosun struggled to impress following the departure of then-club strike partner Stephen Odey to FC Zurich.

He was subsequently axed from the WAFU Nations Cup team, and despite been handed a lifeline to stake a claim for a shirt, the MFM FC forward simply did not do enough for consideration.

His wait for a maiden tournament appearance for Nigeria must now continue.

Yusuf opts for experience between the sticks

The Super Eagles' coaching crew favoured experience in their goalkeeping selections.

The three stoppers -- Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Dele Ajiboye and Theophilus Afelokhai -- each have an NPFL winner's medal in their closet, with third-choice Afelokhai the most decorated with his four championship titles with Kano Pillars.

Added to their league medals, all three goalies will feature in this season's CAF club competitions, while Ajiboye is a reigning NPFL champion after winning the title with Plateau United last term.

Gate-crashers dominate the squad: A major concern for Nigeria ahead of the 16-nation championship is the relative unfamiliarity of the squad.

Yusuf made the risky decision to introduce a host of untried and untested players in his squad after eschewing some of the nation's more experienced names.

It remains to be seen how the new additions adapt to the pressure associated with international football, particularly within the short period of time, while Yusuf will also have to ensure that the disparate elements of his squad can gel before the tournament proper.

Anthony Okpotu has the potential to be the Eagles' stand-out star

The forward is set to become the first reigning NPFL top scorer to feature at the CHAN, and has the potential to set the tournament alight.

His predecessors Victor Namo, with 18 goals for Nasarawa United in 2013, and Gbolahan Salami, with 17 strikes for Warri Wolves in 2015, both missed previous competitions, denying Nigeria fans the chance to watch the division's top hitman test himself against some of the continent's best defences.

The Lobi Stars forward netted 19 goals last term, and with a lack of experience around him in attacking areas, is set to be Nigeria's key hope in Morocco.

NFPL academies bearing fruit: Ikouwem Udoh and Nura Muhammed are both products of the feeder teams of NPFL teams, and offer hope that the division's teams are producing bright young talents who can have long futures with the national side.

20-year-old left-back Udoh was promoted to the Enyimba first team in March 2017, while Muhammed was representing El Kanemi Warriors' feeder team in the Nationwide League One season last year.

Remarkably, the teenage sensation still awaits his debut in the top flight in the coming season, and he could become only the second player after Erhun Obanor in 2014 to feature for Nigeria at the CHAN tournament without having played in the NPFL.

The inclusion of the duo is a major achievement for the League Management Company, who have encouraged clubs to develop their youth teams and will now hope that at least one of the youngsters can shine in Morocco.


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