Related News

Related Club News

Onazi's loss is a major blow

Feature: Ogenyi Onazi's loss is a major blow for Nigeria in 2013 Confederations Cup

Posted: 17 June 2013 Time: 3:30 pm

Ogenyi Onazi has become a major player for the Nigerian national team during 2013. Ed Dove looks at why his loss is a major blow to their Confederations Cup campaign.

I don’t often rave about a player.

I’m not a pessimist, but I prefer taking a conservative and wholly rational approach to coverage, without opting for the hype that many choose to promote their newly discovered talents.

Saying all of that, however, I certainly rave about Ogenyi Onazi.

Few players have excited me more over the last 18 months than the Lazio defensive midfielder. Being a defensive minded player myself, and placing a huge value on the less fashionable aspects of the game – tackling, covering, marking and positioning – I have delighted in Onazi’s steady progression.

Many of my favourite players in the history of the game, the likes of Edgar Davids, Scott Parker, Michael Brown and Claude Makelele, have all operated in this position, interpreting the role in a myriad different ways. Thus, I was hugely excited to see such an accomplished youngster attempt to make the role his own during the recent Cup of Nations.

In truth, over 2012 almost all of the positions in Stephen Keshi’s starting XI were up for grabs, and the central midfield in particular is an area where Nigeria have vast reservoirs of talent.

Despite his injury concerns, Joel Obi still has time on his side, and may yet blossom into a central midfielder – perhaps offensive rather than defensive – of international class. Nwankwo Obiorah has featured sporadically in Keshi’s squads as he continues his tutelage in Italy, while Liverpool-born youngster Hope Akpan is champing at the bit to enter the national setup.

There are also the likes of Ayila Yussuf, Lukman Haruna, Dickson Etuhu and Sani Kaita who have held spots in the team over the last few years, only to find themselves cast into the abyss presently.

Indeed, come the beginning of the Africa Cup of Nations, it was Valerenga man Fegor Ogude who enjoyed the big boss’s favour, and commanded a midfield spot alongside the talismatic John Obi Mikel.

Ogude’s stint in the team didn’t last long, however, and after disappointing showings against Burkina Faso and Zambia, the hatchet man was replaced by the youthful Onazi.

The rest – as the cliché goes – is history.

The Lazio man flourished in a three man midfield alongside Mikel and Sunday Mba, and the trio held the balance and the dynamism to overcome the continent’s talent and march to Africa’s highest prize.

The Cup of Nations triumph was the pinnacle of an enormously formative and vastly successful year for the Jos-born youngster. Having tasted first team football with Lazio at the end of last season, Onazi forced his way firmly into the setup this term.

He was particularly impressive in the Europa League, and earned the praise of a broader audience with his performance in the 0-0 draw with Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. As well as the Afcon title, he was also part of the Lazio side that beat arch-rivals Roma in the final of the Copa Italia at the season’s finale.

Onazi has taken to these exalted settings like a duck to water. Having long been the subject of media attention and public scrutiny in Nigeria, he has finally lived up to the expectation that has traced him since he was a prodigal teenager back in his homeland.

With a miraculous work ethic, a terrific commitment to the team, and an excellent maturity for one so young (Onazi is only 20), the midfielder has become a central cog in the Super Eagles line-up. He was a pivotal figure in the side’s run to the continental final.

I surely wasn’t the only one who feared the worst when the youngster was felled after receiving a knock to his knee in the recent World Cup qualifier against Namibia. While there was initially hope that the problem could be resolved, a scan has shown that it will impossible for Onazi to compete in Brazil this summer.

The news is far from welcome in Nigeria, where the side are already struggling with absentees such as Kalu Uche, Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses. The loss of another key player, described as the team’s “engine” by Keshi, severely dents their hopes of impressing this summer.

Speaking to the player earlier in the week, I asked Onazi how he felt about the prospect of going toe-to-toe with the likes of Xavi and Iniesta at the Confederations Cup. The former My People man gave a response that indicated his maturity and self-confidence; to him, the challenge of facing the world champions was just “another opportunity to play football”.

Sadly, that opportunity will have to wait.

As John F Kennedy once said, however, in disaster emerges opportunity, and as football’s fates frown on Onazi, they smile on Fegor Ogude, the man he replaced in South Africa. The anchor man is the natural replacement for Onazi, and looks set to have a second chance in the first team following his displacement during the Cup of Nations.

Nigerians will be hoping that he can fill the chasm left by the youngster’s mishap.

Article by: Ed Dove

 

Previous comments on this story...

coache
posted: 03:55 pm
Excellent review. Onazi is a hard player and committed one for that matter. His elder boda is a 200-level Architecture student in Nigeria.
Santi Santi
posted: 04:41 pm
Now this is the benefits youth development in football which we need to embrace more, few years back Onazi was just starting with our U17s today he has become an important spine in the Eagles, playing with much maturity that belies his age, now that Onazi is a product of our own system shows we can do better if we put our acts together and get to work, we wont be needing to travel to Germany and the rest to convince players to come play for us.
chiffo
posted: 04:43 pm
Barring injury, Nija has a team to beat in Africa for the next 4 years, our time has come!!!!!!
Am exited waoooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
VIncent Enyema----Austine Ejide--------Chigozie Agbim

Efe Ambrose--Godfrey Oboboma---Keneth Omeruo-----Uwa Echiejile,
Ruben Gabriel-----Azubuike Egwueke----Yobo Joseph

Mikel obi---Obira Nwanwo----Fengor Ogude----Nosa Igiebor
Joel Obi----Ogenyi Onazi-----Kalu Uche----Sunday Mba----John Ogu

Ahmed Musa----Victor Moses----Nnamdi Oduamadi----Obinna Nsofor
Tony Ujah----Brown Ideye-----Emenike----Ike Uche

ETC.
Which African country can match this pool but Ghana and Ivory coast.
"The lord is among them that help us , of whom shall we be afraid?"
We fear no foes!!!!!!!!!!!
Carry waka African champions, the Great Super Eagles of Nigeria. Carry goooooooooooooooo.
Santi Santi
posted: 04:49 pm
And to say this John Obuh may have given Onazi his first international exposure, but am not sure Obuh is towing same path with his current U20s, i really doubt if they are future Eagles there like Onazi and Omeruo, maybe its too early to judge, i just hope am wrong *fingerscrossed*
Anonymous
posted: 06:15 pm
Listen to Nigeria v Tahiti match on abbeyliveradio and enjoy independent analysis and comentaries live from Brazil with our men on the ground. just log on to www.abbeyliveradio.com. Happy listening.
Game147
posted: 06:31 pm
@Chiffo, I thought Ramon Azeez showed a lot of promise, I wonder what happened to him.
Game147
posted: 06:38 pm
*The last comment was meant for Santi Santi*
Santi Santi
posted: 06:54 pm
Game147 it seems Ramon Azeez has made little progress compared to Onazi and Omeruo, he is with Almeria and he gets little playing time there, lets hope he can make positive progress in his game to fulfil that great potentials we all saw in him back in his U17 days.
skill 10
posted: 07:17 pm
onazi is a fighter in d midfield,every team nids a fighter,some1 that reads the game,makes important tackles and win the ball,i hope he continue improving and be our next sunday oliseh of the 90's
TINO-PEE
posted: 07:53 pm
My Heart is truly weeping for missing this your lad at this crucial time,i wish him speedy recovery,may his spirit guide the eagles and see them through,,,Luv you so much ONAZI.
▌▌ Y1NKA ,¸¸,ø¤º°º¤ ᵀᴴᴱ'ᴼᴿᴵᴳᴵᴻᴬᴸ ╚ll╝
posted: 08:06 pm
·٠•★✨Not to forget ...VICTOR MOSES as well! ...we'll miss them both. ONAZI ...remember those name. Later in Brazil World Cup!
chikason
posted: 11:41 pm
@skill 10 ,Onazi is more of creativity and possesion than ur patetic warrior description.
Mabizela01
posted: 10:42 am
chiffoposted: 04:43 pm Barring injury, Nija has a team to beat in Africa for the next 4 years, our time has come!!!!!!
Am exited waoooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
VIncent Enyema----Austine Ejide--------Chigozie Agbim

Efe Ambrose--Godfrey Oboboma---Keneth Omeruo-----Uwa Echiejile,
Ruben Gabriel-----Azubuike Egwueke----Yobo Joseph

Mikel obi---Obira Nwanwo----Fengor Ogude----Nosa Igiebor
Joel Obi----Ogenyi Onazi-----Kalu Uche----Sunday Mba----John Ogu

Ahmed Musa----Victor Moses----Nnamdi Oduamadi----Obinna Nsofor
Tony Ujah----Brown Ideye-----Emenike----Ike Uche

ETC.
Which African country can match this pool but Ghana and Ivory coast.
"The lord is among them that help us , of whom shall we be afraid?"
We fear no foes!!!!!!!!!!!
Carry waka African champions, the Great Super Eagles of Nigeria. Carry goooooooooooooooo.

Well Chiffo here in SA we have players we have pl;ayers who can score own goals due to lack of basic tactics, but suprise suprise the very same players are still praised and regarded as the best players in the country mind you I'm talking about a 27 yera old here who still lack basic tactics and eventually due to that we won't qualify for WC play-offs. tell me in Nigeria how would you handle such situiation, do you regard this as an unfortunate incident or the player get blamed due to his lack of basic tactics?
Terms of use:

The comments posted do not reflect the views of KickOff.com. Users are reminded that no misuse of this comment facility will be tolerated. Any abusive, racist, inflammatory, defamatory, discriminatory comments or hate speech will be deleted and the user banned.

If legally obliged we will hand over your information under the Protection of Information Act.

Please report abusive posts to editor@kickoff.com.