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Over the last few months, one of the key issues facing Stephen Keshi has been choosing the identity of his third midfielder.
Ogenyi Onazi and John Obi Mikel became key figures in the side’s 4-3-3 over the last 12 months, but a whole host of players have tried, and failed, to complement them.
I explored the failings of the potentials for KickOffNigeria.com:
At the Cup of Nations we hoped that Nosa Igiebor would be the man we had awaited, later, Fegor Ogude was called upon as the brute to Mikel’s brilliance and Onazi’s bustle; Sunday Mba showed the light but was not the light, Nnamdi Oduamadi faded and Lukman Haruna appears to be firmly out of favour with the Big Boss.
The contest against Mexico, however, brought Keshi’s sentiment about his personnel into clearer perspective. He is not hunting for a "third man" within the midfield, but an "11th man" within a very settled first XI.
The goalkeeper and the backline pick themselves; Onazi and Mikel are indispensable, while the forward three of Emmanuel Emenike, Ahmed Musa and Victor Moses are unlikely to be dropped.
This means that Keshi is left with one component to play with.
Against Mexico, he opted to switch between 4-4-1-1, 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2, meaning that rather than choosing a third man in a midfield three, he took a look at Michael Uchebo behind Emenike and then Imoh Ezekiel alongside him.
Keshi has options and the kind of players who offer him a diversity of approaches. He is only one player away from a first team capable of travelling to the quarter-final.