GOAL outlines a number of goals for football in the UK over the next year.
Without a doubt, 2022 was a mixed year for football in Nigeria.
At the Africa Cup of Nations, they didn’t make it past the Round of 16, and in the World Cup playoff, they couldn’t beat Ghana.
Because they couldn’t do well against their West African neighbors, Augustine Eguavoen was kicked off the team and Jose Peseiro took his place.
For its players, 2022 was equally varied. Alex Iwobi was resurgent, Victor Osimhen overcame injury worries to become Luciano Spalletti’s preferred central striking option, Ademola Lookman flourished for Atalanta before the World Cup hiatus, and Samuel Chukwueze ended the year in Quique Setien’s XI after spending most of it in and out of the side under former Villarreal boss Unai Emery.
For Joe Aribo and Calvin Bassey, moves away from Europa League finalists Rangers have not gone according to plan. The versatile midfielder has played in multiple positions at Southampton, and the defender seems to get criticism at Ajax every other week.
In this feature, GOAL makes wishes for the New Year for the national team, some of its players and local clubs.
A favourable continental run for Rivers United
Four Nigerian clubs entered both continental competitions — the Caf Champions League and Caf Confederation Cup — but only Rivers United remain.
Plateau United, Kwara United and Remo Stars will not participate in the group stage of either competition after exiting at several stages of two-legged knockout ties preceding the group phase.
The Nigerian champions could not make the Champions League’s groups, but emphatically defeated Al Nasr 6-1 on aggregate in the Confederation Cup playoff round.
The Port Harcourt club’s reward sees them drawn with ASEC Mimosas, Diables Noirs and Motema Pembe in Group B.
Given no Nigerian club has ever won the competition, with only one ever making the final (2005), Rivers United are fighting a losing battle.
On-field success for Jose Peseiro
After a decent-to-good start for Peseiro in the Nigeria job, the final months of 2022 were not particularly promising.
The Super Eagles were beaten by Algeria and Portugal in friendly games that highlighted familiar failings of inferiority against superior opposition.
Having seen elements of improvement from the three-time African champions under the Portuguese trainer, reverting to old habits has been dispiriting.
Nigeria are likely to make it to the next Africa Cup of Nations, but performances preceding the competition in Ivory Coast will inform supporters’ opinion of the side’s readiness to challenge the continent again.
Serie A success for Victor Osimhen
Nigerians may have issues with Napoli, having seen the Partenopei deny the Super Eagles the services of its best player for last year’s Afcon and November’s Portugal friendly, but wish Osimhen well.
Luciano Spalletti’s crew sit atop the standings in Serie A and are favourites to claim a title they have not won since 1990.
Osimhen was the competition’s top scorer before the interlude and the centre-forward will not only hope to end as this year’s Capocannoniere but crown it with Napoli’s first Scudetto in three decades.
Peace for Alex Iwobi
Despite his 2022 resurgence, Iwobi received lots of stick before the year ran out with Everton supporters turning on the former Arsenal attacking midfielder.
Iwobi has yet again been made a lightning rod for the Toffees’ poor performances and it remains to be seen if the 26-year-old finds sustained happiness at Goodison Park.
Talk of a contract extension has cooled since Frank Lampard revealed an extension was in the offing but you wonder if staying on Merseyside truly favours the Nigerian.
Surely Iwobi deserves better and the versatile midfield man will hope to find mental and emotional calm in 2023 at Everton or elsewhere.
Greater transparency and accountability
This was pointed out last year but little changed, with continued complaints about the nation’s football administration.
Supporters believe it reflects a nation whose absence of accountability across different sectors has eaten into how the sport is run in the West African country.
There is a sense nothing would change, but we hold on to hope, nonetheless.
Clean bill of health for Wilfred Ndidi
2022 was a horrid year for the anchorman who was absent for Nigeria’s showdown with Ghana and subsequently lost his place in the Leicester City side.
This time last year, we hoped Ndidi finally got a move to a bigger club in one of Europe’s top leagues, but the defensive midfielder seems far away from aspiring that high these days.
Concerns over his continued injury layoffs mean he cannot be relied upon by Brendan Rodgers and is unlikely to get that big move.
A lot can change in a year, but he needs to stay fit and play. When he is at his best, there is arguably no one better at what he does best in the middle of the park.