By David Ngobua
Anytime names like Late Stephen Keshi, Late Rashidi Yekini, Austin Jay-Jay Okocha, Daniel Amokachi, Sunday Oliseh, Kanu Nwankwo, Uche Okechukwu, Peter Rufai, Finidi George, Garba Lawal, Tijani Babangida, Osaze Odemwingie, Jospeh Yobo, John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses, Vincent Enyeama, Emmanuel Emenike, Efe Ambrose, and a host of others are mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is their individual and collective contributions to the success of the Super Eagles in their time.
They are among the two squads that won the Africa Cup of Nations for Nigeria in 1994 in Tunisia and 2013 in South Africa. Apart from featuring for Nigeria at the continental level, most of these players went on to represent the country at the World Cup level.
Interestingly, despite club commitment and battles with professional injuries, some of these players were able to bag several international caps.
The most capped Super Eagles players are Vincent Enyeama and Joseph Yobo who retired from the national team when they hit 101 caps.
While Yobo called time on his international career in 2014 after a disappointing showing at the World Cup in Brazil, Enyeama bowed out controversially in 2015 when former Eagles captain Sunday Oliseh was appointed national team coach.
Based on these players’ brilliant performances, they became household names and are still adored by their teeming fans. Although Rashidi Yekini has passed on, he is fondly remembered for the goals he scored while leading the Super Eagles attack.
Even as his predecessors had scored goals for the Super Eagles, Yekini became the first Nigerian to score for the country at the senior World Cup. He achieved that memorable feat in Nigeria’s opening match of the 1994 World Cup against Bulgaria.
However, some players in the class of 2000 appeared on the scene with the Super Eagles, dazzled briefly and then fizzled out. Even as much was expected from them based on their potentials, they offered so little.
Trust Sports looks at some of those players who sparkled but failed to sustain the performance that took them to the pinnacle of Nigerian football.
While most of them were part of the squad that won the third AFCON title for Nigeria in 2013, some were at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Juwon Oshaniwa: This former Kwara United, Lobi Stars and Sharks of Port-Harcourt defender had 17 caps for Nigeria. He made his international debut in 2012.
Although he appeared as un-used substitute at the 2013 AFCON in South Africa, he played in the final against Burkina
Faso when he came on to replace injured Elderson Echiejile.
At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, he played all four matches for the Super Eagles. However, when it appeared a replacement for Echiejile was found, Oshaniwa fizzled out.
His career dipped so much that his Scottish club Heart of Midlothian released him in June 2017, a year before his contract was due to expire.
Nosa Igiebor: Nosa started out at FC Abuja in the Nigerian league before going abroad to play for several clubs like Lillestrom in Norway and Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israeli league as well as Real Betis in the Spanish La liga.
A member of the victorious 2013 AFCON squad, Nosa had 15 caps for Nigeria. The former Warri Wolves player scored twice for the Super Eagles from his defensive midfield position. He currently plays as a midfielder for Cypriot First Division club Anorthosis Famagusta.
Obiorah Nwankwo: The former Inter Milan youngster also arrived with lots of promises but offered so little.
He was a member of the Flying Eagles squad which took part at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, the 2009 WAFU U-20 Championship, and the 2009 African Youth Championship in Rwanda.
Obiora as a youngster made his first-team debut for Inter Milan in a UEFA Champions League match against Tottenham in 2009 in London, coming on as a substitute for the injured Sulley Muntari in the 53rd minute.
Going by his immense talents, it was not a surprise that he made the team to the 2013 AFCON in South Africa.
Nwankwo who had 8 caps for Super Eagles is now with Boavista in Italy.
Fegor Ogude: The former Wolves player who plays as a central midfielder or centre-back for Yenisey Krasnoyarsk in the Russian league boasts of 16 caps with the Super Eagles. He was a member of the victorious 2013 AFCON team and also a member of the 2014 FIFA Confederation Cup in Brazil.
The hard tackling Ogude failed to sustain the tempo as he was quickly frozen out when Keshi left the national team.
Sunday Mbah: The former Enugu Rangers striker became an instant hero when he scored crucial goals for the Super Eagles at the 2013 AFCON while still a home based player.
He scored in the quarter-final against highly rated Elephants of Ivory Coast and was the match winner in the final against Burkina Faso.
Following his heroics in South Africa, much was expected from him. While waiting to move to Europe, he lost his form so even when he finally joined lowly rated CA Bastia in the French League, the fire in him had died.
The 2013 AFCON hero who played 21 matches for Nigeria scoring 5 goals last played for Yeni Malatyaspor in Turkey.
Babatunde Micheal: After stints in Ukrainian clubs like Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih, Volyn Lutsk and Dnipo Dnipropetrovsk, the former Heartland of Owerri player is back in Africa with Moroccan giants Wydad AC.
After impressive showing at the FIFA Confederation Cup in 2013 in Brazil, he made the squad for the 2014 World Cup where in his first ever start for Nigeria in the match against Bosnia, he dazzled until his arm was broken by a ferocious shot from midfield mate, Onazi Ogenyi.
Although he was identified as a player for the future, he too fell by the wayside after the 2014 World Cup.
He scored two goals in 17 appearances for the Super Eagles beginning from 2013.
Ramo Azeez: Although this former Golden Eaglets and Flying Eagles star held so much promises and was widely tipped to anchor Super Eagles midfield in no distant future, he has failed to live up to expectations.
He was a surprise inclusion in the squad to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil where he made his debut on 16 June by starting in a 0-0 draw against Iran.
Just like some of his contemporaries, Azeez has not soared high in the green white green with the Super Eagles.
The product of Future Pro Academy who now plays for Spanish club CD Lugo in the Segunda Division in the Spanish league as a central midfielder had only 4 caps for the Super Eagles.
Apart from the above listed players who promised much but offered so little, others like Kunle Odunlami, Uche Nwofor, Micheal Uchebo, Reuben Gabriel, all members of the 2014 World Cup team and many others also ended as flashes in the pan.