Saudi ’89 FIFA Under-20 World Cup silver medallist Dimeji Lawal says the public must respect Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi’s decision to leave any top player out of his World Cup squad.
Keshi has come under intense pressure to name Stoke City attacker Osaze Odemwingie and Villarreal hitman Ikechukwu Uche in his squad for the summer’s World Cup in Brazil and Dimeji has expressed his disappointment with the development.
The former Spain-based winger says no player should be forced on the ex-Super Eagles captain, saying he should be given a free hand to select his players for the competition.
“I’m in support of whatever decision Keshi takes in his selection for the World Cup,” the 42-year-old former K.V. Kortrijk star told our correspondent on the telephone during the week.
“I was looking up to Uche to step into the late Rashidi Yekini’s shoes because of his quality. But if the coach says he doesn’t want him in his squad, we have to respect his decision.
“He must have his reasons for not wanting to include him and Osaze in his World Cup plans.
“Personally, I want them to be in Brazil but I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes, because what you see on television or on the pitch is different from what is going on in camp.
“Osaze has always been a good player but I’m surprised nobody is talking about his attitude issues.
“There are players whose presence throws a team into disarray and every coach wants to avoid problems in his team.
“Keshi is in charge of the team and he takes responsibility for team’s failure and credit for success.
“He should be allowed to pick those he believes will perform in Brazil so that he will not have any execuse if we don’t do well in the competition.”
The ex-Eagles forward believes Nigeria will miss Uche’s “goals and versatility” in Brazil but insists the strikers for the tournament will rise to the challenge.
“Uche has scored more goals (for his club) than any of our strikers in the season but it is not enough to force him on Keshi,” Dimeji said.
“The Eagles qualified for the World Cup without Uche and Osaze. And they got good results from their friendly matches without them.”
The ex-Shooting Stars player says he is not worried that the likes of Elderson Echiejile, Victor Moses and Mikel Obi are not active in their clubs, saying the development will not affect the Eagles at the World Cup.
He said, “There’s no way it won’t affect the players but I think they will play well in Brazil.
“You can’t compare a player who is playing regularly for Hull City or Stoke City with the one playing from the bench at Liverpool or Chelsea. The standard is different.
“Ashely Cole is not playing regularly for Chelsea but he is still being invited to play for England.
“(Nicklas) Bendtner has not been playing for Arsenal but it doesn’t stop him from playing for his country (Denmark).”
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.
Contact: [email protected]