Another quality defensive midfielder in the Nigeria team, Yussuf Ayila is an experienced hard-man with enough versatility to play in the centre of the pitch anywhere from defence to attacking midfield. Despite being just 26 years old, he has been picking up experience with the Super Eagles since 2005 and has been playing for Dynamo Kyiv for the last six seasons, gaining valuable time in the UEFA Champions League in the process.
He featured three times in the ultimately unsuccessful campaign to reach the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ - scoring a goal in the 5-1 dismantling of Zimbabwe in October of 2005 - and he did play his part in Nigeria’s third-place finish at the 2006 CAF Africa Cup of Nations. He was a surprise omission from then-coach Berti Vogts’s 2008 Cup of Nations squad, but Shaibu Amodu restored him to the rotation in the second round of qualifying for South Africa 2010. Injury problems saw him miss much of the third stage of the preliminaries, but he was recalled for the two must-win matches to close out qualifying: victories over Mozambique and Kenya. His record in FIFA World Cup qualifiers is a perfect 10 wins out of 10 matches.
His Cup of Nations in Angola earlier this year was up and down, despite Nigeria finishing a surprising third. He was one of the players singled out for criticism after the opening 3-1 defeat to Egypt and only appeared twice more as a substitute before the semi-final. He did start the last-four battle in the west African derby against the Black Stars of Ghana, but he was forced off through injury.