Nigeria’s poor attitude towards recruiting quality players of Nigerian descent, born and living overseas, into the national teams has again backfired. Yesterday, Crystal Palace midfielder, Eberechi Eze, who was first courted by former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick, in 2017, was called up by England senior national team, to feature in their EURO 2024 qualifiers.
Eze was said to have declared himself available for an international friendly against Burkina Faso in London, but the game failed to hold.
The former Arsenal starlet was also in line to play for Nigeria had the country qualified for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, but the Super Eagles’ defeat at the qualifiers by Black Stars of Ghana put paid to that.
Since then, the creative midfielder has been looking forward to playing for the Three Lions of England at international level.
His dream finally came to reality yesterday, as he was called up by Gareth Southgate to the England squad for the first time ahead of next month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers.
Eze won the hearts of many Nigerian fans with his skillful displays in the Premier League, where he scored six goals for Crystal Palace in his last eight matches. In all, Eze has scored 10 goals in all competitions for Crystal Palace this season.
One particular instance of his remarkable display was on Easter Sunday, when Eze and another player of Nigerian descent, Michael Olise, powered Crystal Palace from a goal down to blow off Leeds United 5-1.
While Olise set up three of the four second-half goals, Eze scored a fantastic 55th-minute goal, which lifted Palace up into 12th position.
With his pace, energy and dribbling skills, many Nigerian fans feel Eze has the makings of a star in the mould of Liberia’s George Weah, Austin Jay-Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba. An Eze in Super Eagles’ midfield was touted as the last piece in the jigsaw of a team with attackers of such ferocious ability as Victor Osimhen, Taiwo Awoniyi and Kelechi Iheanacho.
Such dreams would be shattered if he featured in any of the two England matches coming up next month.
England faces Malta in Ta’ Qali on June 16, before playing North Macedonia at Old Trafford three days later.
The Three Lions top the early Group C table after beating Italy and Ukraine in their opening two qualifying matches in March.
Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling was left out. Southgate said: “He is not happy with his condition physically, carrying a hamstring problem. He wasn’t really in consideration. He doesn’t think he is operating at the level he needs.”
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