By Jacob Ajom
Most discerning followers of Nigerian football were not surprised by the inclusion of Kelechi Iheanacho and Isaac Success in coach Manu Garba’s squad for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup. It would have shocked many, had the duo, especially, Man City attacking pearl, Iheanacho been left out of the squad. But that is exactly what Coach Garba was set to do – drop them and continue with those he won the African Youth Championship in Senegal and those that had been in camp with him since April – before he bowed to pressure.
Iheanacho, who shone like a million stars at the 2013 FIFA U-17 tournament in the United Arab Emirate has not featured for the team since that memorable championship, which he played a pivotal role in the team’s triumph.
During the African Youth Championship in Senegal, he was refused permission by Manchester City on the excuse that he was injured. The club later showed interest in the lad’s participation in the tournament but Manu Garba named his AYC squad without him.His eventual release by the club has been dogged by hitches. Iheanacho failed to catch up with the team in Germany, where they have been camping due to club commitments and visa hitches. A camp source told Sunday Vanguard Sports that his has not gone down well with Garba who was ready to dump the much liked youth international.
On his part, Isaac Success’ club, Granada of Spain were reluctant to release the former U-17 star. Success, who was highest goal scorer at the 2013 Africa U17 Championship in Morocco before suffering a hamstring injury at the FIFA U17 World Cup in the UAE, has been a consistent figure in the Spanish La Liga side. The club’s reluctance to release the player forced Coach Manu Garba to issue a 72 hour ultimatum. The player beat the deadline and was welcomed to camp by the coaches and players.
Nigeria’s best ever performance at the U-20 World Cup are runners-up berth at the 1989 and 2005 finals. African champion Nigeria will play her first match against Brazil in New Plymouth on the first day of June, before other Group E games against North Korea and Hungary in the same city.