By GEORGE ALUO
Today’s encounter between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the national team of Venezuela in faraway Miami, United States of America (USA) may not be a competitive game, but the Eagles’ Head Coach, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, has declared that it is not a match to be handled with levity.
He told his boys that it was not a match to be toyed with. Daily Sunsports gathered that the coach has, as a matter of fact, made it clear to the players that whoever fails to live up to expectation in the grade A international friendly should forget about going to the Nations Cup in South Africa early next year. A top FA official, who pleaded anonymity, revealed just before the Eagles jetted out to the US that what happened in tonight’s match would, to a large extent, determine those going to South Africa.
“The match against Venezuela is a big test for the players, we are happy Keshi is getting this kind of game ahead of the Nations Cup. And the good thing is that the coach himself is taking the game serious. He wants to use it to determine those that will get his nod to be in South Africa. Any player that fails to perform may not get another opportunity to fight for a shirt ahead of the 2013 Nations Cup,” he said. The match is the one that Spain based Obafemi Martins and Newcastle’s Shola Ameobi would want to use to prove to the Eagles’ gaffer that they are good enough for the Nations Cup.
Martins is staging a comeback to the Eagles, while Ameobi who has just pledged his future to the country would be making his debut. Keshi has, however, made it clear that no player will get automatic shirt in the Eagles. The coach said that all the players would be given equal opportunity to fight for shirts, even as he added that current form and one’s fitness level would be the watchword.
The coach stressed that Osaze Odemwingie, who like Martins, is returning to the national team won’t get any VIP treatment. “I have not promised Osaze a place in the team. There is nothing like a senior player getting automatic shirt. No player is bigger than the team. All those in camp will fight for shirts and what will count is ones fitness level and current form,” Keshi said.