The cold war between West Bromwich Albion of England striker, Osaze Odemwingie and Super Eagles’ Chief Coach, Stephen Keshi appears to have ended in favour of the player.
It was gathered that Keshi, who was hell bent to drop Osaze from the Nations Cup bound Eagles, finally bowed to pressure and has included him in the list of professional players invited for camping ahead of South Africa 2013 African Cup of Nations.
Keshi’s decision to axe Osaze from the Eagles generated a lot of outcry amongst millions of soccer loving Nigerians, who want to see the player in South Africa 2013.Keshi and Odemwingie have been on warpath since the former skipper of the Eagles took over the team last year.
Osaze is one of the most potent strikers that Nigeria can bank on for now but many Nigerians feel that his criticism of national team coaches could throw spanner in the wheel of the team that should be hungry for success.
With the country having been starved of a trophy for close to two decades, Keshi knows that failure to deliver the coveted Nations Cup could lead him the way of his predecessor and former teammate in the Eagles, Samson Siasia.
Some stakeholders feel that Keshi has acted as a wise man by recalling Osaze to the Eagles, as such error by coach Siasia, who left out Vincent Enyeama from the crucial match enroute the last edition of the Nations Cup, worked against the team. Nigeria failed to qualify for the tourney held in Equarorial Guinea and Gabon.
The Beijing 2008 Olympic football silver medalist, Osaze is known for his radical approach against Nigerian coaches when things do not go the way he expects. A typical example of Osaze’s behaviour happened at the Angola 2010 edition of the Nations Cup.
The competition was going smoothly for him and the team until when Nigeria lost in the semi-final stage. Then, Osaze controversially criticised Coach Shaibu Amodu’s tactics, blaming him for the defeat and it was Amodu that was shown the exit door by the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF.
The English Premier League African Player of the year winner in 2011, Osaze did not stop in fighting only Amodu, who qualified the Eagles for the South Africa 2010 World Cup, he also took his guns against Amodu’s successor, Lars Lagerback who led Nigeria to the World Cup that year.
Osaze also engaged former coach, Siasia in series of face-offs during his reign as Eagles coach. Even with the invitation extended to him by Keshi, Osaze has again sent warning signals that he may not meet up with the 4 January, 2012 deadline given to all the professional players to hit the Eagles camp in Faro, Portugal.
Osaze’s claims this time around is that his wife, Sarah, is due to give birth to a son about a fortnight to the kick off of the tournament, meaning that the 31-year-old would keep Keshi and the nation waiting to fine tune Eagles’ full preparations for South Africa 2013 AFCON.
“I hope my situation won’t affect my involvement,” said Osaze. “You can’t predict what will happen but I hope for a scenario where it will be easy.
“My wife’s due date is about 10 days to the African Cup of Nations. Babies can be late, or early, but in this case I pray it’s earlier so everything will go smoothly.
“The preparation period for the tournament is usually about 10-14 days. Sometimes the home-based players start earlier, but I will discuss this issue soon,” Osaze told international media.
Meanwhile, Keshi has told those who care to listen that the Eagles are not afraid of reigning African champions, Zambia and other countries at the South Africa 2013 Nations Cup.
The Eagles are drawn in Group C of the biannual tourney which kicks off 19 January with Zambia, Burkina and Ethiopia but Keshi believes his team would treat every team with respect stating that he fears no foe.
The Zambians may be heading to the Nations Cup with the reigning champions tag, but Keshi, who helped Nigeria lift the trophy at the Tunisia ’94 edition believes it would be a different ball game in South Africa. The Eagles kick-starts their campaign on 21 January against Burkina Faso.
The former Hawks of Togo tactician is of the view that the Zambians would be inspired by their skipper, Christopher Katongo, who was crowned 2012 BBC African Footballer of the Year. Keshi however feels his wards have what it takes to tame any opponent that comes against Nigeria during the African football fiesta.
The former Anderlecht of Belgium player currently tinkering the home-based players before they would jet out to Faro, Portugal for the final phase of camping exercise disclosed that he is not bothered by the stiff oppositions that they would come up against said “I need to think about my players and my team; I don’t need to worry about Zambia, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. Let them worry about us, let me concentrate about my team and we will just focus for the championship which is the most important thing, he said when asked about the training he is giving his team to correspond with the style of play of their group opponents.”.
Although he admitted that if the Eagles must conquer Africa again after winning in 1980 and 1994 that they must be at their best knowing that there are no longer minnows in football, he said he and the technical crew would do all within their means to select the best legs that the country has.
Meanwhile, anxiety has already enveloped the air in the camp of the home-based Eagles following the decision of Keshi to pick only ten out of the 22 players currently training in Abuja for the Nations Cup.
Keshi had earlier rated the performance of the players high saying that he would love to pick ten of them to join the 17 professional players that would be made public on Friday and believes only those that make the cut would go with the team to Faro, Portugal.
According to him “”It will be my delight if 10 players prove good enough to make the championship roster,” Keshi said.