Rather than preparing for the summer sojourn to Brazil, Dike now faces the long road to rehabilitation. At 27, opportunities like this won’t come along too often; the big man described today, on Twitter, as the “worst day of my life.”
However, as injury closes one door, it surely opens another. Dike’s absence will force Stephen Keshi to reshuffle his attacking options—which forward will benefit and earn a spot in Nigeria’s World Cup party? This article profiles six men who could be set to fill the void.
The towering Geordie has predominantly been called-up alongside Dike, rather than instead of him, but he may well be the main beneficiary of the Toronto man’s injury.
Even though the two players have often featured together for the national side (the friendly against Italy being one successful example) it was always going to be unlikely that both would star simultaneously in Brazil.
I have suggested that one of the two men would eventually emerge to prominence and play a role as Keshi’s ‘Plan B’, a physical option ready to be brought on from the bench to change the complexion of a match.
With Dike out of contention, Ameobi emerges as the natural (indeed, possibly the only) contender to play this role. His lack of goals for club side Newcastle might be a concern, but Ameobi should bring a valuable physical component to the forward line.
Last week must have been pretty bleak for Ideye Brown.
Having been a squad ever-present during 2013, the Dynamo Kyiv striker was unceremoniously ignored for the Mexico friendly.
Despite Keshi’s assurances that those players overlooked were not out of the running for a World Cup berth, Brown must have been concerned about his prospects.
However, following the injury to Dike, Brown may be granted an unlikely reprieve and may receive another chance to prove he can cut it as an international forward.
Were it not for the fine performances of Dike and Ameobi against Italy, West Bromwich Albion forward Victor Anichebe may have been given the call for the Mexico friendly.
The powerful striker has been one of the Premier League’s most-inform forwards over the last month and demonstrated his qualities with late equalisers against Chelsea and Liverpool.
Anichebe is more mobile than either Dike or Ameobi and, for the time being at least, is free from the injuries that have compromised his Nigeria career to date.
Keshi could do a lot worse.
Imoh Ezekiel is a fine and explosive young striker who looks set to have a bright and long future with the national side. However, while I celebrate Keshi’s decision to take a look at him for the Mexico friendly (particularly with Belgium keen to recruit him), it is hard to argue that the player is one of Nigeria’s best four or five forwards.
Michael Olaitan, however, is one of Nigeria’s most in-form strikers and one of a handful of our compatriots still ‘live’ in the Champions League.
The Olympiakos man has stepped up following the departure of Kostantinos Mitroglou and has scored six goals, contributed three assists and been Man of the Match on two occasions since the turn of the year.
If Olaitan can continue his momentum, and can star against Manchester United in the Champions League, then Keshi might struggle to continue to ignore him.
It’s fair to say that Michael Uchebo was a surprise addition to the squad named to face Mexico.
While players such as Michael Eneramo, Sone Aluko and Peter Odemwingie are often discussed among the opinions on these pages or in the clubs, cinemas and coffee houses of Lagos, Uchebo’s name isn’t typically a regular feature in that swirl of speculation.
However, as we stand here today, the World Cup on the horizon, the Cercle Brugge striker looks to be in an excellent position to seal a World Cup berth.
At 6’4, the striker is a impressive physical presence, however he can also boast some technical competency, and was nicknamed the ‘New Kanu’ during his youth.
Keshi is clearly impressed by the former U-20 international, but in truth, he will need to improve on his seasonal record of two goals to make the World Cup squad.
A contentious figure among Kick Off readers perhaps, but few can deny that Ike Uche is a born goal-scorer. He may have flopped at the Cup of Nations, but since then the Villarreal man has been in explosive form in La Liga.
The 30-year-old has scored 12 goals in 13 starts to date this term and boasts an awesome shots-to-goals ratio.
If, hypothetically, Nigeria were to find themselves seeking a goal in the dying stages of a contest this summer, there are few strikers in Africa, let alone Nigeria, that one would rather have as a saviour among the substitutes.
Uche may be a completely different style of player to Dike, but if Keshi is looking for a player who can provide a goal threat from the bench, then all the Big Boss needs to do is patch things up with the controversial Villarreal man.
Follow Ed Dove on Twitter @EddyDove