When the group for the Africa Zone of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers were drawn, very few gave the Super Eagles a chance of qualifying. The senior Nigeria national team had missed two consecutive AFCON tournaments.
The Super Eagles proceeded to walk the group that had Zambia, Algeria and African Champions, Cameroon. Now with the world cup just a few weeks away, Gernot Rohr, the manager, has drawn up a provisional list of 30 players in which 7 will be dropped for the 23 that will make up the final squad.
I have watched Nigerian football for over 3 decades and I have seen many players come and go. I am also very aware that evolution in life can’t be stopped – we just sometimes have to embrace it. Football and the styles have changed, and what makes very good players in the past don’t seem to make them now.
What has been very clear with Rohr and his teams is the fact that the manager is loathe to change the composition of his teams/squad. So unsurprisingly the 30 includes the usual suspects.
I have watched the team as closely as most over the last 18 months and feel I can make my own call on the players that I think should be dropped.
Dele Ajiboye is the 4th goal keeper on the list and he is one that has hardly played many games under Rohr so I am sure barring injuries he knows he won’t be making the plane journey to Russia.
10 defenders have been nominated. I am working on the premise that 4 central defenders will be chosen, Shehu Abdullahi is the first choice right-back. My call for being dropped here will be Stephen Eze who plays in the Bulgarian league.
Olaoluwa Aina and Elderson Echiejile should battle for the next person to join Eze out of the camp. Now, Echiejile has two things going for him – experience and a natural left foot. If the former Monaco defender is dropped it means there will be no natural left footer in the defence for Russia. I will drop Aina as he has no qualities clearly better than the other full backs.
Of the 8 midfielders I can’t see any footballing reasons why Mikel Agu and Uche Agbo should be on the plane to Russia but this is the Nigerian world cup squad we are talking about here.
That leaves us with 2 more to be taken from the 8 forwards chosen. Simeon Nwankwo of Crotone has made a mad dash for the plane. Another manager and I would say he could make it in place of Ahmed Musa. The few times I have watched him play though, I have been unimpressed with his style. I don’t expect him to make the final cut.
Rohr does not rate the NPFL so, sadly, Junior Lokosa will miss out.
My seven to miss out: Ajiboye; Aina, Eze; Agu, Agbo; Nwankwo and Lokossa. However, it will not even be shocking to me if Ebuehi, Ogu miss out.
There are quite a few of the players carrying knocks from their gruelling European league schedules so there might be decisions made because of this.