Assessing Africa’s Five Squads

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Barring further injury, the teams named will be the ones that compete for international gold at the grandest sporting occasion of them all in South America.

This feature considers the final squad selections and the decisions of Africa’s five bosses. Comment below and let us know what you think of the inclusions and the exclusions.

Nigeria

Last, but by no means least, the Super Eagles released their list after some typical confusion late on Monday evening. Hopefully their performance in Brazil will be a little less muddled than their squad announcement, which prompted further criticisms of the NFF and the current regime.

The names chosen did little to assuage the sensationalism of the event as Stephen Keshi made a handful of shock decisions in his final 23.

In defence, there was some surprise that Kunle Odunlami (pictured) made the cut, particularly following his dismal display in the recent international friendly against Scotland. In truth, Keshi may have limited his own options by choosing only seven defenders in his provisional list of 30.

Those pointing to Odunlami’s fine Championship of African Nations display at centre-back miss the point that the defender has almost exclusively been called up as a right-back. If he is to play in the centre of defence, then why would Keshi also include the limited pair of Joseph Yobo and Azubuike Egwuekwe?

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A whole swathe of central midfielders – Joel Obi, Sunday Mba, Nnamdi Oduamadi and Nosa Igiebor – were sent home having each held the baton at various times over the last two years. Keshi did, however, retain Reuben Gabriel, who was behind both John Ogu and Fegor Ogude at times in 2013.

The cull is particularly unfortunate for Mba, who was the darling of the nation only 18 months ago.

In more offensive positions, Ejike Uzoenyi and Victor Obinna were the surprise omissions as Keshi included Michael Babatunde and Uche Nwofor in his final 23.

While Nwofor impressed with a late equaliser against Scotland, Babatunde delivered an anonymous performance in this match (one to go alongside his poor showing in the Confederations Cup) and has surprised many with his inclusion.

Uzoenyi, following his superb displays at the CHAN, and Obinna, following his goal in the play-off second leg against Ethiopia, have every right to be massively disappointed with their exclusion.

The support for Keshi and his squad must begin in earnest now that the final list has been named, but be under no illusion, if things fall apart in Brazil, there will be accusations and recriminations aplenty.

A team that overlooks the likes of Obinna, Uzoenyi, Mba, Joel Obi, Oduamadi, Igiebor, Sone Aluko, Taye Taiwo, Ike Uche, Lukman Haruna and Chinedu Obasi cannot fall in Brazil.

Algeria

Algeria boss Vahid Halilhodzic cut his Algeria squad down from 30 to 23 with some big name omissions.

Crystal Palace midfielder Adlene Guedioura (pictured), a veteran of the last World Cup, misses out despite playing in all but three of the side’s games since the beginning of 2013. He is, it seems, a victim of the emergence of Nabil Bentaleb, who has snared one of the midfield spots.

The omission of Rafik Djebbour came as less of a surprise following the forward’s disappointing season, while Ryad Boudebouz’s celebrated return to the national side also ended before the tournament began.

Foued Kadir, Amir Karaoui, Azzedine Doukha and Nacereddine Khoualed were the others dropped.

Ghana

Ghana were struck a major blow as centre-back Jerry Akaminko landed awkwardly in the dying minutes of their pre-tournament friendly against the Netherlands. The centre-back has started the Black Stars’ last four matches, but will now miss the competition through injury.

The setback opens the door for Jonathan Mensah to partner John Boye in defence. Mensah only came into the team ahead of the last World Cup because of injury and may be set to complete the trick this year.

It was perhaps not a major surprise that squad new boys Jeffrey Schlupp and David Accam (pictured) were also dropped, but they represent an exciting future for the Black Stars.

Cote d’Ivoire

There were several high-profile departures as the Elephants trimmed their selection from 28 down to 23.

Lacina Traore (pictured), injured ever since his Everton debut, was always going to represent a risk, and in the end it was one that Sabri Lamouchi didn’t fancy taking.

The omission of Seydou Doumbia was, however, a much greater shock. The CSKA forward doesn’t have a very impressive international scoring record, but with 18 goals in 18 games in Russia this season, he surely should have been worthy of a squad place.

While Giovanni Sio and Matthias Bolly filled out the squad’s offensive berths, Doumbia resigned from international football.

Brice Dja Djedje was also dropped, a decision that may well prohibit Lamouchi from moving Serge Aurier infield to bolster his defence. Badra Ali Sangare and Benjamin Angoua were the other unfortunates.

Cameroon

Despite an injury scare in the recent friendly against Macedonia, Pierre Achille Webo makes the squad.

With Webo making the cut, another striker had to go and it was the veteran Mohamadou Idrissou who was dropped. The 34-year-old had been drafted into the side to try and solve deficiencies in offensive positions, but it appears that Volker Finke believes he can do without him.

A great shock was the omission of Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik (pictured). While the defender is rarely a first teamer, he has largely been present in the squad during Finke’s reign.

It was surprising that reserve stopper Guy N’dy Assembe was overlooked for Loic Feudjou, while the absences of Raoul Loe and Gaetan Bong were rather easier to predict. Despite being a decent player, Bong represented one left-back too many for Cameroon, considering the presence of Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Henri Bedimo.

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A number of readers have sent me questions which I will endeavour to respond to in a Question and Answer feature with Kick Off shortly. If you have any questions or issues you want to put to me, please write them in the comments section below and I will include them in the editorial.  

By Ed Dove
Twitter: @Eddydove

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