Saturday, December 13, 2003

Eagles under spotlight: The return of the Austrian bomber

Abdul-Raheem Aodu

Super Eagles strike Benedict Akwuegbu has decided to lay a stronger claim to a Super Eaglesí shirt even as the Eagles get set to regroup for the final preparation for the African Cup of Nations.

The burly striker scored twice last weekend as his Austrian Bundelisga team, Grazer A.K. defeated FC Karnten to move closer to the Bundesliga title. Courtesy of his brace and the victory that followed Grazer A.K. is not only placed second in the Austrian league but is also four points, short of the defending champions and league leaders, Austria Vienna.

Akwuegbu, who has not really hit his national team career off after many years in the Super Eagles is picking up form at the right time as this would put him in good stead to fight for a first team shirt in the Tunisia bound Super Eagles.

The former Plateau United striker hit such a rich vein of form last year during the build-up to the Mali 2002 Cup of Nations, but ended up missing the nations cup train as he was dropped by coach Shaibu Amodu just before the tournament.

However, this time around the Austrian bomber should keep improving on is scoring form and putting up his best performances both in the camp and during friendly games to prove his worth and prove doubting Thomases wrong. If Akwuegbu could be more consistent with his form he would do his fight for a place in the team a lot of good as many of the strikers invited for the camping exercise in Faro, Portugal are currently undergoing indifferent forms.

Yakubu Aiyegbemi, Kanu Nwankwo, Victor Agali and John Utaka are all undergoing bad patch of scoring form currently, so this would give the Scotland 1989 U-17 Eaglets star, a leeway to stamp his authority on the team. Even if he still has to play second fiddle to some players, he would be assured at least, of squad membership.

Benedict Akwuegbu played for the Super Eagles in the GHANI 2000 Cup of Nations which was co-hosted by Nigeria and Ghana, but was dropped at the last moment on the way to the last edition in Mali.