The Super Eagles is billed to play two friendlies against Senegal and Burkina Faso in London on Thursday and Monday respectively and as the countdown to the tune-up games continues, here are the profiles of five stars who were discovered from previous friendlies played by the Super Eagles…
Osaze Odemwingie made his debut for Nigeria in an international friendly against Kenya on May 4, 2002 which the Super Eagles won 3-0.
The forward was 20 years, nine months and nineteen days old as he was introduced to the Nigeria football faithful at the Lagos National Stadium. The former Bendel Insurance starlet went on to play for European clubs like Lokomotiv Moscow, Lille and West Bromwich Albion.
Odemwingie was a mainstay in the Super Eagles, first with a splendid performance at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia. He went on to participate also at the 2006, 2008 and 2010 Africa Cup of Nations as well as the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Odemwingie was in Nigeria’s squad to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
The forward was an ‘unregistered’ member of the Super Eagles squad to the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan.
In total, the former Nigeria international born to a Nigerian father and a Russian mother, played 62 international matches scoring 11 goals.
Just like Odemwingie, Vincent Enyeama also made his debut in the friendly against Kenya on May 4, 2002. The ex-Nigeria international was captain of the national team before falling out with former coach Sunday Oliseh in 2015.
The Lille of France goalkeeper is still Nigeria’s most capped player of all time, ending his international career with 101 caps.
The highlight of his international career was the 2002 World Cup group match between Nigeria and England.
Enyeama pulled world class saves in the game which ended scoreless, the most memorable was the long-range strike by Paul Scholes.
The decision of then Super Eagles coach Adegboye Onigbinde to hand Enyeama that opportunity at the expense of an experienced Ike Shorunmu who was in goal in Nigeria’s two earlier group games against Argentina and Sweden was the turning point in his career.
Enyeama subsequently became Nigeria’s undisputed first choice goalkeeper and participated in five Africa Cup of Nations tournaments: 2004, 2006, 2010 (third place finish for Nigeria), 2008 (quarterfinals) and 2013 (Nigeria were winners of the AFCON for the third time).
The CAF Champions League winner with Enyimba International of Aba in 2003 and 2004 also participated in the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, and the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.
On a personal note, the 2010 World Cup was perhaps not a bad outing for Enyeama who won Man-of-the-Match awards twice, in the matches against Argentina and Greece.
Former Super Eagles left-back Taye Taiwo made his debut for Nigeria on November 17, 2004 at the Nelson Mandela Challenge friendly with South Africa.
The former Marseille defender put in a decent shift in the ceremonial friendly in honour of the late legendary Nelson Mandela. The friendly contest remains Nigeria’s only defeat against South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in 12 meetings.
The former Lobi Stars defender the following year helped Nigeria’s U-20 national team, Flying Eagles, to a second place finish at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup in the Netherlands where he emerged the third best player of the tournament behind Argentina’s Lionel Messi and fellow Nigerian, Mikel Obi.
Taiwo made 54 senior appearances for Nigeria and scored five goals.
The one-time Gabros United and Lobi Stars left-back was in Nigeria’s teams to the 2006, 2008 and 2010 Africa Cup of Nations. He also starred in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Before his move to Finland, the former Nigeria international spent much of his career with Olmpique Olympique de Marseille, the team with which he won the French Championship in 2010, before leaving for AC Milan in 2011.
Taiwo also played in the Turkish championship with Bursaspor and also Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine.
He joined HJK Helsinki in 2015, with a total of 28 league games and 6 goals in two seasons in Finland.
Currently injured with a hamstring problem and not expected to be back until April, Torino midfielder Joel Obi made his debut for Nigeria in the international friendly with Sierra Leone at the Teslim Balogun Stadium on February 9, 2011.
The Super Eagles won 2-1 on the evening, the fourth international friendly match between both countries. Nigeria had won twice and drawn once in their previous friendly matches.
The then 19 years, eight months and 18 days old Obi won over the vociferous Lagos fans with his brief 12-minute appearance in the midfield. The friendly marked Samson Siasia’s first game in charge of the senior national team.
The talent of the one-time NEPA FC of Lagos youngster is never in doubt but injuries have restricted his international appearances to just eight.
The left-footed star would later play in two more international friendlies for Nigeria against Argentina on June 1 and June 9, 2011 respectively.
Alex Iwobi was eligible to play for England but the Arsenal foreatd chose to represent the country where his father was born, Nigeria, and not the Three Lions of England.
Born to a Nigerian father from Onitsha, Chuka Iwobi, who himself played football for Vasco Da Gama FC of Enugu, the Arsenal star made his debut for Nigeria on October 8, 2015 in an international friendly between Nigeria and DR Congo with Sunday Oliseh in charge of the Eagles and was on the pitch for 33 minutes.
Nigeria lost 2-0 but Iwobi was called to action three days later in just 11 minutes when the Eagles defeated current African champions Cameroon 3-0 in another international friendly-both games played in Belgium.
Iwobi also played in the friendlies against Mali (on May 27, 2016) and Luxembourg (31 May, 2016). On both occasions, Iwobi played for 74 and 59 minutes respectively. In the Mali game, Nigeria won 1-0 and then defeated Luxembourg 3-1.
Iwobi who is nephew to former Super Eagles captain Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha has played eight games overall for Nigeria since that bow.
In international friendlies, he has played a total of 177 minutes and 165 minutes in 2018 World Cup qualification matches. – Compiled by Completesportsnigeria.com’s Izuckukwu Okosi
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