The Super Eagles of Nigeria are making their second successive appearance at the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Rwanda.
After a third-place finish in South Africa two-years ago, coach Sunday Oliseh will be hoping to surpass the feat of his predecessor by going all out for the title this time.
Players like Ejike Uzoenyi, Rabiu Ali, Gbolahan Salami and Shehu Abdullahi all produced top-notch performances – helping the nation to a podium finish on her debut.
Here are five Nigerian players with a big point to prove as the Eagles begin their campaign with a match against Niger at Stade Régional Nyamirambo, Kigali on Monday.
- Chima Akas – Sunshine Stars
A prominent member of the main Eagles team, Chima Akas will captain the side at the showpiece. The newly acquired Sunshine Stars left-back replaced Salami as skipper of the team following the latter’s withdrawal from the tournament.
Akas, 21, has featured twice for relegated teams in the Nigeria Professional Football League – Shooting Stars in 2013 and Sharks FC in 2015.
His charisma, experience and leadership will be crucial when the Eagles begin their sojourn in group B.
- Paul Onobi – Sunshine Stars
Paul Onobi has become a bit of a household name in Nigerian football. His impressive performance in defensive midfield in the Super Eagles 2-0 win over Swaziland in the World Cup qualifier in November brought lots of accolades from fans.
“It was a moment I’ve been waiting for, for a long time. Every player on the streets wants to play for the Super Eagles because that’s the highest level of football,” the Sunshine Stars man said.
Onobi was selected ahead of the more experienced John Obi Mikel in the match against Swaziland and took his chances with both arms.
His athleticism and foresight will be a major asset to the team in Rwanda.
- Ifeanyi Matthew – El-Kanemi Warriors
Joining Onobi in midfield is El-Kanemi Warrior’s midfielder, Ifeanyi Matthew.
Matthew, 19, is the creative engine of the team who brings sublime passes, skills and goals.
The former Mountain of Fire star is attracting interest from several top clubs both within and outside the country.
He scored in two pre-CHAN warm-up games against University of Pretoria and Cote d’Ivoire.
- Tunde Adeniji – Sunshine Stars
In the absence of Salami, Tunde Adeniji is the country’s major hope for goals in Rwanda.
The 20-year-old scored twice in the pre-tournament friendly victory over University of Pretoria.
Adeniji, the third Sunshine player on our list, has an incredible goal record for the Akure-based side – 42 in 71 appearances.
- Chisom Chikatara – Abia Warriors
One of the brightest and most exciting prospects in the Nigerian league, Chisom Chikatara is likely to be Oliseh’s joker at the CHAN tourney.
At just 21, Chisom has scored 48 goals in 71 games for Abia Warriors since joining the side in 2012.
A quick, diminutive, and agile right-footed striker, Chisom is primarily known for his outstanding pace, mobility, and athleticism as a footballer, as well as his striking power, and his strength, despite his young age.