SUPER EAGLES

5 players that can lead Nigeria to AFCON 2023 glory

The three-time African champions will be aiming for a new beginning following their World Cup failure.

Udogie and Lookman

When the year started, Nigeria's men's national team had two objectives: to win the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. However, they have failed in both missions, only four months into the year.

The Super Eagles crashed out in the round of 16 at the AFCON while they failed to book a World Cup ticket after they were knocked out by Ghana in the playoffs via the away goals rule.

It is a massive blow for Nigerian football that will also have a ripple effect on the country's economy.

But the team cannot dwell on the failure for too long, and they have to look to the future. The future starts in June 2022, when the qualifiers for AFCON 2023 will commence.

Nigeria are in pot one and will find out their opponents on April 19. Although stranger things have happened before, the Super Eagles are expected to navigate their group successfully and qualify for the competition set to be hosted by the Ivory Coast.

But when the competition kicks off next year, the Super Eagles squad is likely to be different from the one that played against Ghana.

Players like Ahmed Musa, Odion Ighalo, Daniel Akpeyi and possibly Leon Balogun could miss out.

With that said, Pulse Sports take a look at some new players Nigeria can count on in their quest for continental glory next year.

Bassey did not have the best game on his home debut, which was the draw against Ghana. It appeared the occasion, and the high stakes got to him. It must also be said that the pitch's condition did not help his situation.

But despite the average performance, Bassey is the future and could play a key role for the Super Eagles in 2023.

He played as a left-back against Ghana, but he plays mainly as a centre-back. And with Balogun's days numbered, Bassey could be the man to replace him.

Like Bassey, Lookman also made his home debut for the Super Eagles in the match against Ghana. The Leicester City forward had a lively first half, winning the penalty that drew Nigeria level.

But he faded in the second half and was deservedly taken off. However, Lookman will play a major role for the Super Eagles in the future.

The 24-year-old will provide competition for Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze, who received criticism for their performance in the game against Ghana.

Lookman's addition will bring goals from the wings, which could be the extra factor the Super Eagles need to win a fourth continental title next year.

Eze will be a massive coup if Nigeria can convince him to switch international allegiance.

The Super Eagles have struggled for creativity in the attacking third since Austin Jay-Jay Okocha and Kanu Nwankwo retired.

But with a player like Eze, the Super Eagles' creative problem could be solved. Eze's potential addition will definitely boost Nigeria's chances in Ivory Coast. However, they need to convince him first.

Akpoguma's situation is strange. He is the only Nigerian centre-back playing consistently in Europe's top five leagues, having played 22 times for Hoffenheim this season.

Yet, he is still not considered good enough to be invited to the Super Eagles squad. One major reason is the partnership of William Troost-Ekong and Balogun, popularly called the 'Oyinbo Wall.'

However, with the consensus saying the oyinbo wall needs to go, Akpoguma may be the future.

At only 26, Akpoguma and Bassey's partnership in defence may be what the Super Eagles need to fly in Ivory Coast.

Zaidu Sanusi and Jamilu Collins are Nigeria's recognised left-back, but none has shown enough quality to make the role their own.

However, with Destiny Udogie, the situation could change. Solid defensively and brilliant going forward, Udogie will be a valuable addition to the squad.

He has made 27 league appearances for Udinese in the Italian Serie A this season, scoring two goals and providing one assist.

Udogie is still only 19, but the Super Eagles will need to convince him to switch international allegiance.

He was born in Italy and has represented the Azzurris at the youth level. But he is still eligible to represent Nigeria. Should he decide to switch allegiance, it would be a major coup for the three-time African champions.

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