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It wasn’t just Imoh Ezekiel who represented the Belgian Jupiler League in Nigeria’s recent friendly with Mexico.
Michael Uchebo, a much-less celebrated competitor than his compatriot, also got the nod. Surprisingly, it was Uchebo, and not Ezekiel, who started the match.
This came as a surprise to those watching, but, it soon became apparent that Uchebo was seen as a key figure by Keshi, who was trialling a new 4-4-1-1 formation.
His performance was, to be critical, high on endeavour but a little lacking in efficacy; however, Uchebo might have done enough, playing off the striker, to book himself a place in Brazil.
Goal Nigeria’s Solace Chukwu summarised his impact as follows:
A special mention should go to the debutante Uchebo. He only played 45 minutes, but was excellent. Though his passes were sloppy on occasion, some of his movement was sublime. His biggest contribution to the team was, however, in the defensive phase.
He constantly got goal side of Juan Carlos Medina, El Tri’s deepest midfielder, preventing easy passes being played into him. This meant that Mexico found it hard to build moves through the middle, and when they tried to force the issue on a few occasions, the giant was on hand to intercept and launch quick counters. The most notable, on 11 minutes, led to the game’s best chance and drew a fine save from Guillermo Ochoa.