World Cup 2010: Nigeria reveals her 23-man ‘killer’ squad… some veterans dropped.

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world-cup-2010-Stadia
world-cup-2010-Stadia

Nigeria named six players with World Cup experience on Monday in their final 23-man squad for next month’s tournament in South Africa.

Nwankwo Kanu will captain the side at his third World Cup, the Nigerian Football Federation said on Monday.

Coach Lars Lagerback, who made his choice after just two games in charge, also included Rabiu Afolabi, Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide, John Utaka and Joseph Yobo from the squad that took part in the 2002 finals.

The Swede cut Everton’s Victor Anichebe and winger Ike Uche, who was Nigeria’s top performer in the qualifiers, from his preliminary squad.

Both had recently returned from long-term injury and although they played in the warm-up games, officials said Lagerback had decided against taking any chances on their fitness.

“He explained that time was too short, and that injuries were also a factor,” the team’s media officer Idah Peterside said.

Also left out was Nice defender Onyekachi Apam, who had not been able to train over the last two weeks because of a knee injury.

But Lagerback did include Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel who also only recently returned from knee surgery.

Goalkeepers: Dele Aiyenugba (Bnei Yehuda), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Petah Tikvah), Vincent Enyeama (Hapoel Tel Aviv).

Defenders: Dele Adeleye (Sparta Rotterdam), Rabiu Afolabi (Red Bull Salzburg), Elderson Echiejile (Stade Rennes), Chidi Odiah (CSKA Moscow), Danny Shittu (Bolton Wanderers), Taye Taiwo (Olympique Marseille), Joseph Yobo (Everton).

Midfielders: Yusuf Ayila (Dynamo Kiev), Dickson Etuhu (Fulham), Sani Kaita (Alania Vladikavhaz), Nwankwo Kanu (Portsmouth), Haruna Lukman (Monaco), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), Kalu Uche (Almeria), John Utaka (Portsmouth).

Strikers: Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Everton), Obafemi Martins (VfL Wolfsburg), Obinna Nsofor (Malaga), Chinedu Obasi (Hoffenheim), Peter Odemwingie (Lokomotiv Moscow).

In another development, Cuauhtemoc Blanco has been  retained in Mexico’s 23-man squad, just like Nwanko Kanu of Nigeria, enjoying the benefit of long World Cup experience.

Now age 37, Blanco is also going to his third World Cup, where Mexico faces host South Africa in the tournament opener on June 11 and then Uruguay and France in Group A. Also like Kanu, Blanco played in the 1998 and 2002 competitions.

Mexico coach Javier Aguirre left out Jonathan Dos Santos but kept his older brother Giovani in the squad. Jonathan is a 20-year-old midfielder with Barcelona while Giovani is a Tottenham player but has been on loan at Turkish club Galatasaray.

However, England manager Fabio Capello has kept the whole world guessing over his final choices claiming though he knows his final England World Cup squad, he  won’t divulge it until Tuesday’s deadline.

Italy coach Marcelli Lippi still needs to cut five players, while Germany’s Joachim Loew has to decide whether or not to take six strikers to South Africa.

Fabio Capello
Fabio Capello

Capello revealed after his team’s 2-1 victory over fellow qualifier Japan on Sunday that he now knew the 23 he wanted to carry England’s hopes. He just wasn’t going to say who they were yet.

“You have to wait until June 1,” he said after the game in the Austrian city of Graz, adding: “I know. You have to wait”.

That means checking on the fitness of midfielder Gareth Barry, who hasn’t kicked a ball since he was injured playing for Manchester City on May 5.

But he has also left the likes of Scott Parker, Stephen Warnock, Tom Huddlestone, Darren Bent, Michael Carrick, Michael Dawson, Adam Johnson and Shaun Wright-Phillips wondering whether they will be going back to England instead of heading for South Africa.

Defending the title his team won four years ago in Berlin, Lippi needs to cut players from his provisional 28—forwards Marco Borriello, Fabio Quagliarella and Giuseppe Rossi are in the firing line.

But Lippi, who will be replaced by Cesare Prandelli after the World Cup, is not giving any clues.

“Just have some patience and on Tuesday evening you’ll know everything,” the veteran coach told a news conference Sunday.

Kanu Nwanko
Nigeria's Kanu Nwanko, leading Nigeria Squad.

Germany has not won the title since before unification, having captured three as West Germany, and wants to make up for failing to win it four years ago on home turf.

“It’s going to hurt for two players,” Loew said after his team beat Hungary 3-0 in Saturday’s warmup game in Budapest, although he has given little indication who will be cut.

“No player knows who is seeded and who has to fear,” said Lukas Podolski, who looks sure to make the squad after a solid performance and a goal in the win over Hungary.

Marcell Jansen, who is coming back after a long-term foot injury and played 30 unremarkable minutes against Hungary, is in danger. Although Jansen is valuable to Loew because he can be used as a midfielder or a defender, his fitness is a question mark.

Loew has said he will take six strikers to the World Cup but with injuries restricting his choice of midfielders, he may reconsider.

Already without experienced midfielder and captain Michael Ballack through injury, Germany lost defender Heiko Westermann with a broken bone in his left foot during Saturday’s victory in Budapest.

Despite lingering injury problems, Spain has already named its final squad as have other leading contenders such as Brazil, Argentina and the Netherlands.

France coach Raymond Domenech has said he is sticking with the provisional 23 he has already named.