Coach Stephen Keshi has stated that recent injuries was the reason for dropping Victor Moses and Brown Ideye from the Nigeria squad that will take on Congo and South Africa in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers coming up in a fortnight.
Moses was conspicuously missing from the Nigeria list announced last Friday even though he has returned to form and scored at the weekend for Stoke City in their 2-2 draw with West Ham United.
“I left him out because he’s just coming back from injury and we don’t want to take risks,” Keshi told SuperSport.com.
“Everyone knows what I think of Victor. He’s a good kid and very talented footballer but at this point, for the upcoming games, we don’t want to take any risks.
“The first game we will play in Pointe Noire, Congo will be on artificial surface and a lot of players don’t react well to that.
“I would not want him to aggravate the injury,” he said.
West Bromwich Albion’s Ideye was also not called up by Keshi who has been given another chance to continue in his role as Nigeria coach after the Nigeria Football Federation decided not to renew his contract, two weeks ago.
“Ideye is also a good kid. Like you know, he was also recently injured,” the 52-year-old said.
“And the truth is that since his return, he’s not been playing much for his club. He needs to play more but I’m okay with him. No problems at all.
“The truth is that this country is blessed with a lot of very good players and not everyone can be asked to play at the same time,” he said.
Nigeria need to win their two matches in order to stand a chance of defending their title at Morocco 2015 and Keshi has said it is possible.
“South Africa will be fired up following the death of their goalkeeper [Senzo Meyiwa],” said Keshi.
“They have not lost or conceded a goal since the qualifiers started and they will be eager to continue in that run.”
‘Mikel will always be in my team’
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has praised Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel for his spiritedness despite calls from many quarters claiming national team coaches are afraid to bench the player.
Mikel had a poor World Cup run as Nigeria lost 2-0 to France in the second round.
His impact in the Super Eagles’ 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign has also come under scrutiny with the team winning just one in four matches leaving them in dire straits.
Keshi has not dropped or substituted the player even in the face of dwindling performances with both club and country and has now spoken glowingly of the midfielder.
“Mikel brings a lot of professionalism to the team,” Keshi told SuperSport.com. “He’s a fighter. He hates losing with a passion.
“In training sessions, it’s the same – always professional and always serious minded.”
Mikel was Nigeria’s shining light at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations which the Super Eagles won and he was voted second best player of the tournament. This earned him a place in the year-end African Player of the Year podium where he came second to Yaya Toure.