Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi is not a man to let star status guide his selection policy. Luminaries such as Peter Odemwingie, Obafemi Martins and Taye Taiwo have all been out of the side for some time now, while injuries to Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike have only swelled the number of notable absentees in the Super Eagles' squad for the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013.
Yet while the Nigeria line-up may be short on stardust, that does not mean to say it is lacking in talent, as recent results have shown. Victorious at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in February, Nigeria are also well on the way to the third and final round of the African Zone qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Keshi’s side has gone unbeaten in five matches so far in the second round, part of an 18-game undefeated run which they extended in Monday’s 6-1 win over Tahiti, their opening match at Brazil 2013.
Three times on the score-sheet against the OFC champions, attacker Nnamdi Oduamadi is the epitome of a Nigeria team that is bursting with ability and anxious to make a name for itself on the international stage.
Odu, to give him his nickname, knows a little bit about global exposure already, having made the move from his hometown Lagos to AC Milan back in 2008. Competition for places and some untimely injuries checked his progress, however, his first-team experience with I Rossoneri being restricted to a short cameo appearance in a 2010 league match against Catania. Loaned out to Serie B sides Torino and Varese last year, the 22-year-old is still waiting to make an impact in Italy.
“I’ve suffered a lot of injuries in the last few years," he told FIFA.com. "That’s why I missed the last Africa Cup of Nations, which my team-mates won in such spectacular style.
"I’ve been given the chance to show what I can do in the national team now though, and I don’t want to waste it. I’m very happy with the first steps I have taken in the competition, and I’m going to give my all to help my team go as far as possible. I’m back.”
Oduamadi made his Nigeria comeback a few months ago, and it was his goal that secured a vital point for the Super Eagles in a Brazil 2014 qualifier against Kenya in Calabar, a strike that has helped them take control of Group F.
Usually reluctant to pay compliments, Keshi was effusive in his praise of the youngster at the time: “Nnamdi Oduamadi is an integral part of my plans. He’s a very intelligent, impish player and I think very highly of him.”
During his 90 minutes on the pitch against Tahiti, Oduamadi showed why Keshi is right to rate him. A constant menace on the right flank, he capped his incisive performance with a hat-trick.
“I’m very pleased with the match I played,” he remarked. “It’s the first time I’ve scored three for the national team and I want to savour the moment.”
In discussing the dance moves that followed his goals, the smiling played said: “I love music and if you like music, then you like to dance too. You’ll see me dancing every time I score.”
Having played in Italy’s second tier, the young Nigerian knows as well as anyone that talent will always show through at any level. Hence the respect he and his team-mates had for underdogs Tahiti: “We didn’t underestimate them. They might be amateurs, but they’re still Oceania champions. I think we fulfilled that part of the contract and the team did a good job.”
Still harbouring hopes of a successful return to Milan, Oduamadi has already taken some important steps on the road to becoming a star, confirmation of which could come in Nigeria’s next engagements in the days ahead.