Nigeria coach keeps out skipper Yobo again

Nigeria's defender and captain Joseph Yobo attends a press conference in Durban on February 5, 2013.  By Alexander Joe (AFP/File)

Nigeria’s defender and captain Joseph Yobo attends a press conference in Durban on February 5, 2013. By Alexander Joe (AFP/File)

LAGOS (AFP) – Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has again axed skipper Joseph Yobo from a series of matches that include crucial 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Kenya and Namibia in June.

Keshi, unveiling his selection Thursday, again kept out the Fenerbahce defender from a busy schedule between the end of May and mid-July during which the African champions could well play as many as 10 matches.

Yobo was overlooked for last month’s World Cup qualifying match at home to Kenya leading to a huge row with coach Stephen Keshi this week.

The former Everton star has won a record 94 caps for Nigeria and he has said Keshi has been “disrespectful” to him, while insisting he is “still very, very relevant” to the national team.

The African champions have a high-profile friendly against Mexico in Houston, Texas, USA on the last day of May, before two World Cup qualifying matches in Nairobi and Windhoek that come before the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.

Nigeria play Tahiti, Uruguay and Spain in Brazil but will play two more games if they advance to the knock-out stage, before returning to Africa for a 2014 African Nations Championship qualifying fixture against the Ivory Coast.

Fresh call-ups among the 30 players picked by Keshi are Kalu Uche, who returns after 16 months in the international wilderness, as well as FC Cologne striker Anthony Ujah.

Top scorer of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Emmanuel Emenike has also been recalled after a long absence caused by injury in South Africa.

Meanwhile, FIFA have ruled that all matches in the Super Eagles 2014 World Cup qualifying Group F will now be played on June 5 and June 12.

Concerned that Flames of Malawi, on same five points as the Super Eagles, would have undue advantage should they play three days after Nigeria, the Nigeria Football Federation wrote to FIFA last week to consider the options of all teams playing on the same day or on the weekends as originally scheduled.

FIFA have now confirmed that while Nigeria take on Kenya at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, on Wednesday, June 5, Malawi would also be playing Namibia’s Brave Warriors in Blantyre.

Also, while the Eagles take the pitch against the Brave Warriors of Namibia in Windhoek on Wednesday, June 12, Malawi would also be hosting Kenya’s Harambee Stars in Blantyre.

Nigeria lead the group on five points from three matches, with Malawi also on five points but have scored fewer goals than the African champions.

Namibia have three points, while Kenya are at the foot of the standings on two points.

Nigeria squad

Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Maccabi Tel Aviv/ISR), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva/ISR), Chigozie Agbim (Enugu Rangers), Daniel Akpeyi (Heartland)

Defenders: Efe Ambrose (Celtic FC/SCO), Elderson Echiejile (Sporting Braga/POR), Kenneth Omeruo (ADO Den Haag/NED), Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves), Ebenezer Odunlami (Sunshine Stars), Benjamin Francis (Heartland), Solomon Kwambe, Godfrey Oboabona (Sunshine Stars)

Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea/ENG), Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio/ITA), Fegor Ogude (Valerenga FC/NOR), John Ogu (Academica de Coimbra/POR), Reuben Gabriel (Kano Pillars), Sunday Mba (Warri Wolves), Emeka Ezeh (Enugu Rangers)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow/RUS), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev/UKR), Victor Moses (Chelsea/ENG), Emmanuel Emenike (Spartak Moscow/RUS), Michael Babatunde (Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih/UKR), Nnamdi Oduamadi (AS Varese 1910/ITA), Anthony Ujah (FC Cologne/GER), Kalu Uche (Kasimpasa/TUR), Gomo Onduku (Sharks), Obinna Nwachukwu (Heartland), Gambo Mohammed