A relative veteran at just 26, Chidi Odiah was previously the first choice for Nigeria at right back, but he has struggled with injuries and fell in and out of favour with previous coach Shaibu Amodu. But with main competitor Yusuf Mohammed out for much of the year due to a knee injury, and given his natural versatility and work-rate on the pitch, Odiah should feature strongly in coach Lars Lagerback’s South African plans. The skilful, attack-minded full-back has become a regular at CSKA Moscow, where he played a big part in winning the UEFA Cup in his first year in Russia (2005) and went to the quarter-finals of this season’s UEFA Champions League, where he was sent off against Inter Milan. This high-level experience will surely help him rebuild his national team confidence, which suffered as he was left out of most of the FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers for the 2010 finals.
After appearing five times in the second stage of the preliminaries, he only featured once in Nigeria’s up-and-down third stage, in a scoreless draw with Mozambique in the middle of the campaign. His personal highlight came at the end of the second stage when he shredded Sierra Leone’s defence, setting up a goal and scoring another after a lovely individual move in a 4-1 win at the National Stadium in Abuja. Odiah did get a recall for the all-important final qualifier at Kenya, which Nigeria won 3-2 to book their place at South Africa 2010, but he was left on the bench. He played a bigger part in Nigeria’s unsuccessful bid to reach Germany 2006, and his overall record in FIFA World Cup qualifiers is excellent: 12 matches without a loss. His other shining moment with the national team came at the 2006 CAF Africa Cup of Nations where he started all six of their matches on the way to winning a third-place medal, but he missed the 2008 continental finals through injury.