CHESTER, Pa. – A few eyebrows were raised when Seattle Sounders striker Obafemi Martins was left off Nigeria’s preliminary roster for the 2014 World Cup.
And the questions from American soccer fans about his exclusion will probably only grow after Nigeria generated little offense in a scoreless draw with Greece in Tuesday’s international friendly at PPL Park.
But following the game, Nigeria head coach Stephen Keshi dismissed the notion that Martins’ move to MLS in 2013 had anything to do with his roster decision.
“I live in the United States, so I know a little bit about the league,” Keshi said. “It’s a good league. I don’t think there’s any problem for a Nigerian player to play in Major League Soccer.”
Keshi didn’t say much else about Martins (pictured above), who’s poured in six goals and six assists through the first 14 games of the MLS season.
But he did confirm that Toronto FC forward Bright Dike would likely be going to Brazil if not for a serious injury.
Dike – who also struggled with injuries while with the Portland Timbers from 2011 to 2013 – has made two appearances for the Nigerian national team, scoring one goal.
“He would have been here, yes,” Keshi said. “It’s a shame. But that’s football.”
Keshi will see a lot of MLS players on Saturday when Nigeria takes on the US in its final World Cup tune-up Saturday in Jacksonville.
And while praising the US for being “a very good team,” he noted that he hasn’t really done much scouting of Saturday’s opponent as he prepares to bring his team to Brazil, where they will face Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iran in Group F.
“Whatever’s happening to the US team is not really our concern,” Keshi said. “My concern is how I’m going to get my players to get back to the rhythm that we’re used to because it’s been a long time we’ve been apart.”
Nigerian captain Joseph Yobo, however, hopes his team will find a better result against the US than they did against Greece.
“I know a couple of players [on the US],” Yobo said. “They’re a very good team. It’s going to be a very good test for us. It’s going to be an exciting game and hopefully we can raise our game and give one of our best performances.”