Super Eagles assistant coach Salisu Yusuf has defended his 23-man squad for the 2018 African Nations Championship in Morocco.
The tournament exclusively for players plying their trade in their countries’ leagues takes place from January 13 to February 4, and Salisu on Tuesday named some of the domestic league stars including Ikechukwu Ezenwa, attacking midfielder Rabiu Ali and Lobi Stars striker Anthony Okpotu on his list for the championship popularly called CHAN.
But Salisu’s list has drawn criticism, with some league followers questioning his decision to omit the likes of MFM striker Sikiru Olatunbosun, Nasarawa United keeper Suraj Ayeleso and Enyimba forward Joseph Osadiaye from the squad.
The former Enyimba coach, who is in charge of the CHAN assignment, on Wednesday defended his decisions, insisting he selected the league’s best players for the tournament.
“We have done all within us to go with the best players available because we wish to give a good account of ourselves in Morocco,” SCORENigeria quoted the former Kano Pillars manager as saying.
“There are some players who will not be with us in Morocco either due to injuries or they have signed for clubs in Europe. But overall, this is the best team.”
He added, “We don’t want to start talking about winning the trophy because, besides your quality, you will also need some luck to achieve this.
“What I can guarantee is that Nigerians will be proud of this team.”
Salisu believes Akwa United forward Sunday Faleye, El-Kanemi Warriors attacker Nura Mohammed Rivers United striker Emeka Ogbuh could help fire the Eagles to their first CHAN title. Nigeria have only won bronze (in 2014) since the competition began in Ivory Coast in 2009.
He said, “We certainly have more options in attack than we had at WAFU Cup.
“And I believe after a week of final preparations in Morocco, we will be ready to take on the rest of Africa at this level.”
Nigeria open their Morocco 2018 campaign against Rwanda in Tangier on January 15.
They then play Libya in Tangiers on January 19, before travelling to Agadir to take on Equatorial Guinea on January 23 in their final group game.