Two news stories coming out of England in recent days have increased the selection prospects of one local Cascadian player for a high profile tournament.
Portland Timbers forward Bright Dike was selected in the provisional 32 man squad and will join the Nigerian squad on Saturday, December 29, in Faro, Portugal. The Super Eagles have scheduled friendlies against the Catalan National Team on Wednesday, January 2 and one week later against Cape Verde.
Earlier this year, Dike, 25, made his Nigerian debut in a friendly in Miami against Venezuela. Nigeria won 3-1.
Several high profile players including Chelsea’s Moses did not make the trip and although his performance received good reviews, there seemed little prospect of Dike going to the upcoming African Nations Cup as part of the Super Eagles squad.
However Dike may be moving higher up coach Stephen Keshi’s thoughts The first clue came when West Bromwich Albion striker Osaze Odemwingie was omitted from the squad behind Dike presumably having moved one up the queue in Keshi’s thinking after his Miami showing.
Yesterday news came out of Newcastle that one of the other strikers in the squad will not be going to South Africa. Magpies head coach Alan Pardew has been telling English media that his striker Shola Ameobi will not travel to the tournament for mysterious reasons.
“Shola won’t be going. The national team manager knows the reasons, which I am keeping to myself,” Pardew is quoted as saying on the BBC Website.
The BBC story hints heavily that the reasons may be connected to Ameobi’s desire to play for England but there is no hard evidence. Ameobi made his debut along with Dike against Venezuela, having been cleared by FIFA to play for Nigeria in November along with Moses.
Keshi will have to cut nine players from his selection by the 9 January deadline for the 2013 tournament. If Pardew is correct about his striker; that is now just eight, and one striker has already been culled.
This means that two or perhaps even just one further striker will not make the cut improving Dike’s chances immensely. Two of them, Enugu Rangers pair, Sunday Mba and Ejike Uzoenyi are just as likely to be considered midfielders according to certain online sources, perhaps slightly increasing Dike’s chances
When they reach South Africa, Nigeria will take on African champions Zambia, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso in Group C.
More on Bright Dike’s Nigeria Career:
Original Provisional 32 Man Squad:
Goalkeepers : Vincent Enyeama (Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel); Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheba, Israel); Chigozie Agbim (Enugu Rangers); Daniel Akpeyi (Heartland)
Defenders : Elderson Echiejile (FC Braga, Portugal); Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC, Israel); Benjamin Francis (Heartland); Joseph Yobo (Fenerbahce, Turkey); Efe Ambrose (Celtic, Scotland); Solomon Kwambe (Sunshine Stars); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves); Danny Shittu (Milwall, England); Kenneth Omeruo (ADO Den Haag, Netherlands); Godfrey Oboabona (Sunshine Stars)
Midfielders : John Mikel Obi (Chelsea, England); Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis, Spain); Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio, Italy); Raheem Lawal (Adana Demirspor, Turkey); Obiora Nwankwo (Calcio Padova, Italy); Fegor Ogude (Valerenga FC, Norway); Reuben Gabriel (Kano Pillars); Rabiu Ibrahim (Celtic FC, Scotland)
Strikers : Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Emmanuel Emenike (Spartak Moscow, Russia); Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kyiv, Ukraine); Victor Moses (Chelsea, England); Uche Kalu (Rizespor, Turkey); Bright Dike (Portland Timbers, USA); Shola Ameobi (Newcastle United, England); Ikechukwu Uche (Villarreal FC, Spain); Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu Rangers); Sunday Mba (Enugu Rangers)