Monday, November 17, 2014

Enyeama Approaches Milestone as South Africa Looms

Nigeria's captain, Vincent Enyeama, is just two games from equaling Joseph Yobo's record 100 appearances. He will get one of those games Wednesday against South Africa in a critical Cup of Nations Cup qualifier in Uyo.  In this piece, we look at Enyeama and nine other players who are likely to reach the century mark in appearances for Nigeria.

That Joseph Yobo, at the 2014 World Cup, became Nigeria's first 100-game player was surprising considering that multiple players have achieved that feat in several countries. First, note that it took Yobo a career spanning 14 years and beginning on March 14 of 2001 to get to 100 games.  In our analysis, all the ten players we have selected will likely get to 100 games, barring injuries. We do not include Osaze Odemwingie who already has 65 games because it will take him a projected 16 years in the national team to reach 100 games. It is possible but unlikely and, thus, we do not list him among our ten players.

Part of our calculation estimates the average number of games that Nigeria plays annually. We arrived at an average of 14 games per year by looking at Nigeria's games in the last five years (2009 to 2013). Of course, the number of games vary widely with just 9 in 2009 to a high of 21 in 2013. Nigeria played a total of 68 games in that five-year span.

The table below lists the ten selected players and provides the following: number of games played so far, year of debut, number of years played, number of years predicted to reach 100 games, and year 100 games is likely to be reached. In addition, we use a + to indicate great confidence that 100 games will be reached, = to indicate some confidence, and - to indicate low confidence. It is important that even though we rate some players with low confidence, these players actually are on a similar pace that it took Yobo to reach 100 games!

Vincent Enyeama has just two games left to match Joseph Yobo's record. He is a cinch to match and then surpass Yobo's record. Notably, he debuted in the same game as Odemwingie in 2002 during an international friendly against Kenya as the team prepared for the 2002 World Cup.

Realistically, Who Will Get To 100 After Yobo?
Though,we have listed 10 players with the opportunity to get to 10 games, the reality is that only a fraction of those players will get there because of several factors including coach's decision, injuries, among others. Therefore, let's take a more realistic look. Of course, Enyeama has the best chance with only two games to spare. Beyond Enyeama, we believe there are just three players on that list with a very good chance -- Oboabona, Onazi, and Omeruo. Those three are likely to continue as national team starters regardless of who the next national team coach is. Though Omeruo has six years to go to be in the range for 100 games, he appears to be in much stronger position compared to a few others with less years to 100 games.

Take Mikel Obi for example. In our calculation, he has just three years. However, Obi has missed some invitations in the past which will impact his ability to get to the 100 game target. Secondly, his style which is slow puts him in danger of quickly being out of favor with a new coach, particularly if he is not playing regularly for a top club in Europe.

Over their career, Musa and Moses have not regularly played 90 minutes for Nigeria which puts them in jeopardy. Emenike, while he plays regularly, often is susceptible to injuries because of his physical style and he appears to be a very streaky striker and with five years to go he is likely to face competition against up and coming young Nigerian strikers such as Isaac Success, Kelechi Iheanacho, and others.

Then Efe Ambrose and Elderson Echiejile who are both strong regulars under Keshi may not be automatic choices under a new coach because both have glaring weaknesses in their play that would warrant competition with several emerging players.

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