Enyimba of Aba goalkeeper, Ikechukwu Ezenwa has gained recognition from global soccer governing body, FIFA as one of few players based in the country they will represent at this year’s World Cup.
Though Ezenwa has lost his first choice spot to Francis Odinaka Uzoho, he is still listed as Nigeria’s number one player to Russia 2018, and FIFA has now identified the former FC Ifewanyiubah of Nnewi shot-stopper for putting Nigeria on the list of countries with at least one domestic league player in their squad for this year’s Mundial.
The selection of Ezenwa, in Coach Gernot Rohr’s final 23-man list puts Nigeria in the lofty category of teams with home-based players, which also has Belgium, Switzerland and Iceland.
On the other hand, Senegal and Sweden did not pick a single player from their domestic league, while 100 per cent of England’s players are based at home, followed by Russia with 21 and 20 from Saudi Arabia.
Egyptian goalkeeper, Essam El-Hadary, at 45, will be the oldest to be between the sticks at the World Cup if fielded, while Nigeria’s Uzoho will be the youngster, at 19, and Mexico’s Rafael Marquez will be the oldest outfield player at 39.
Uzoho is the youngest member of Nigeria’s squad, while other youngsters going to the 2018 World Cup are Kylian Mbappe of France, Trent Alexander-Arnold (England), Achraf Hakimi(Morocco), Jose Luis Rodriguez(Panama), Moussa Wague (Senegal) and Australia’s Daniel Arzani who will be the youngest player overall.
Nigeria which has the youngest squad with an average age of 25 years is closely followed by France and England with an average age of 26 years.
A further check on players’ stats revealed that 200 out of the 736 players from the 32 teams have been to the World Cup before.
Of the 200 players, 186 were at Brazil 2014, 61 were at South Africa 2010, 21 were at Germany 2006 and Mexico’s Rafael Marquez was the only player in Korea/Japan, 16 years ago.
Club data revealed that 16 players make Manchester City the most represented team in Russia, closely followed by Real Madrid (15), Barcelona (14), Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham Hotspur 12 each.