At first glance, one will notice that Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr stretched his list to 25 compared to the 23 players that were invited for the all important Zambia World Cup qualifier tie in September. Let us take a look at each department as well as the standby provision, to determine what has changed from the previous invitation. I will also explore possible reasons for the inclusions and omissions.
Stand in Super Eagles first choice goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa returns, as well as the ever present Daniel Akpeyi. However Deportivo la Coruna’s new safe hands, Francis Uzoho, is on this list in place of Ayodele Ajiboye of domestic side Plateau United, who was in the previous.
Ajiboye was rumored to have given a good account of himself during training leading to the Zambia tie but failed to get the nod to feature. Gernot Rohr rather, kept faith with Ezenwa for Zambia.
It is noteworthy to state that Francis Uzoho’s maiden call up was a well deserved one. Francis had risen quickly through the ranks from Deportivo Fabril to the first team in a short period of time. He posted a shutout in his debut for the senior team and barely missed out of a Whoscored Man of the match recognition, with 4 saves and 2 claims. After two solid displays in the La Liga, he is clearly way ahead of his Europe-based peers, Dele Alampasu and David Nwokolor who are yet to feature for the main team of their respective club sides. And also considering that self-exiled Super Eagles former captain, Vincent Enyeama has been sidelined for quite a while, Uzoho is the only Nigerian goalkeeper who has played recently in the top 5 leagues of Europe. Forgotten Israel-based Dele Aiyenugba
Omitted: Ayodele Ajiboye
The list of defenders for the coming Algeria and Argentina matches is identical to that of the Zambia list, except for the inclusion of Tyrone Ebuehi, who was pulled off from standby to replace injured Elderson Echiejile.
Tyronne who is yet to make his official debut for Nigeria, having only featured in an unofficial friendly against Corsica in May, can play also at the left back of defense. It’s high time he got cap-tied.
With the appearance of another left back on the standby list, it seems Super Eagles regular, Elderson Echiejile will now have to start watching his back.
Omitted: Elderson Echiejile (injured)
Here comes the second beneficiary of the two extra invitation slots, Chidiebere Nwakali! Coincidentally, another member (Uzoho as well) of the U17 World Champions, 2013 class. Kelechi is signed to current English Premier League leaders, Manchester City. The 20-year-old defensive midfielder is currently on his third loan spell, having had spells in Girona and IK Start previously. Failing to appear in the La Liga 2 as at then, Nwakali’s move to Norway two seasons ago put his career back on track. With 4 goals for IK Start from 24 appearances in only his first season, he was courted by several clubs in Norway, before he settled for Sogndal. Nwakali currently has equalled his goals tally from last season after 26 matches, and has gotten two Man of the Match recognitions from football statistical website, whoscored.com.
Despite the relative low rating of the Scandinavian league, Nwakali have given a good account of himself there, and have scored breathtaking goals.
Injured Chelsea wing back, Victor Moses is conspicuously missing, and Anderlecht winger Henry Onyekuru, takes his place. Onyekuru needs no introduction. He painted Belgium with goals in his debut Jupiler Pro League season, and have continued from where he stopped as he is now the highest Nigerian goal scorer there with 6 goals, after starting slowly. Considering his eye catchy performances in the ongoing UEFA Champions League as well, it is no surprise that he was handpicked by Rohr to replace Victor Moses in the wings.
Omitted: Victor Moses (injured)
The special list reserved for those that could get called up in case of emergency, has a new look. Dele Alampasu, Aaron Samuel, Afeez Aremu, and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi are all missing. In their place are Alhassan Ibrahim, Kenneth Omeruo and Russia-based left-back Brian Idowu.
Omeruo and Alhassan were missing from the previous standby list perhaps due to Rohr giving them time to settle down in their new clubs.
The missing home-based duo, Aremu and Ifeanyi, were mostly used for training in the past, and it would be out of place to invite them now because of lack of game time, considering that the domestic league has been on recess.
One may fault the exclusion of Girona’s forward Olarenwaju Kayode from this list considering that there are no strikers in standby. While the main list is loaded with forwards that one may be tempted to wonder, who Kayode will displace, a provision should have been made in case of any casualty. And having a forward in the mould of Kayode who’s latest exploits in the La Liga cannot be contended, I will have to admit his exclusion is a poor decision by Gernot Rohr.
On Brian Idowu, the coach’s inclusion of him seems to be a mere formality, but to send a message that the defender is still in Rohr’s plans. Alhassan, on his part, has already played under Rohr, so a place on standby this time around, should keep him calm.
Omitted: Afeez Aremu, Dele Alampasu, Aaron Samuel, and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi