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Questions remain of injury-hit Nigeria

05 June 2013, 07:20

Johannesburg - World Cup qualifying has been dominating Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi's thoughts rather than the prospect of Confederations Cup matches against world and European champions Spain, Uruguay and Tahiti.

Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Kenya and another qualifier in Namibia a week later are crucial matches for the Nigerians before Keshi's squad heads to Brazil.

Nigeria, who qualified for the Confederations Cup after beating Burkina Faso in February's African Cup of Nations final in South Africa, say their priority is ensuring they return to the South American nation for next year's World Cup.

"I will choose qualifying for the World Cup each time," Keshi said. "Yes, the Confederations Cup is also good but nothing beats or compares to the World Cup, that is the real deal."

The question exists whether Nigeria will be able to match the form that took them to African glory earlier this year in Johannesburg.

A team thought to have potential but not necessarily title winning credentials at the Cup of Nations, Keshi combined mostly young with old, with his side getting better as the tournament progressed.

They beat favourites Ivory Coast in a pulsating quarter-final before crushing Mali 4-1 in the semi-finals and beating Burkina Faso in the final.

Attackers Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses helped spearhead the Super Eagles' efforts in South Africa, but both will miss the Confederations Cup due to injury, as will Turkey-based Kalu Uche, initially recalled for the first time since November 2011 but who has withdrawn.

This will put the onus for goals upon the shoulders of Brown Ideye and Ahmed Musa, with the likes of Michael Babtunde and Nnamdi Oduamadi having a chance to impress on the international stage.

Critically, John Obi Mikel is one of the midfielders travelling to Brazil, bringing crucial experience to the middle of the park to accompany the likes of Sunday Mba and hardman Fegor Ogude.

At the back, Efe Ambrose and Godfrey Oboabona will again team up after a successful Cup of Nations, while the reliable and charismatic Vincent Enyeama will tender goal.

In Group B, Nigeria first face Tahiti on June 17, followed by Uruguay on June 20, with their last group match against Spain three days later. The fixture against Copa America champions Uruguay is the key one for the Super Eagles, given Spain's quality. Beating Tahiti is a must.


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