Since Nigeria’s national team coach, Gernot Rohr, released his provisional 30-man list for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, so many things have been said and written about who the final 23 would be.
Few days ago, Rohr revealed that he already knew what 20 of his 23 players are, with seven players to battle for the remaining three places.
"I have in my head, twenty out of the 23 players going to the World Cup. The other three, I have to watch them again and again."
Gernot Rohr #YourSportsMemo
— ACLSports (@acl_sports) May 25, 2018
However, it appears his job has been made somewhat easier, after winger, Moses Simon, was sadly ruled out of the tournament due to an injury, which has also had a bearing on yours truly’s initial list, which had Joel Obi missing.
Therefore, with the team set to take on Democratic Republic of Congo in a friendly game as part of their World Cup preparations on Monday, I weigh in with my thoughts in the ongoing debate on who should be left out of the final team.
Without much ado, here are the seven I believe must be dropped from the Russian party, which is set to be the 21st edition.
The debate here is Dele Ajiboye or Daniel Akpeyi who should join the favoured pair of Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Spain based Francis Uzoho.
I have been against the continuous invitation of Akpeyi to the Eagles, as I do not consider him good enough, after failing to impress despite getting numerous chances.
I have not seen a Super Eagles goal tender so tensed even before kickoff as Akpeyi. He simply lacks the requisite confidence required to be the last man of our defense, and the last straw was that friendly against Argentina earlier this year.
So, for me, former youth international, Ajiboye, will complete the list of goalkeepers. Yes, I’m aware he has not played a lot under Rohr, but he is a lot more confident in between the sticks than Akpeyi.
The defence has been quite settle for a while, thanks to the ‘Oyinbo Wall’ duo of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong, who are surely Russia-bound, as long as injury permits either.
While three of the back four are pretty clear [given Shehu Abdullahi is our first choice right back], the left back and backups for Abdullahi and the center backs remain uncertain.
Three players, Bryan Idowu, Ola Aina and Elderson Echiejile are fighting it out for the two spots up for grabs on the left side of the defense, while there are dark clouds over Tyronne Ebuehi’s head.
I have read and heard so many people talk about how Echiejile’s experience is needed in the team, but I beg to disagree and believe the time has come to move on from the 30-year-old.
The ex-Monaco ace isn’t the most defensively sound nor is he the best attacking fullback the Eagles have had, and last season, for his Belgian second division side, he featured in just two matches for them, and seven for Turkish league side, Sivasspor.
Meanwhile, Aina, 21, and Idowu, 26, both made 47 and 33 appearances in all competitions for Hull City and Amkar Perm respectively.
Therefore, even in terms of form, Echiejile has lacked game time and since this team is one for the future, I’d want to see Idowu and Aina in Russia, including everyone else listed but Stephen Eze, who joins the ‘experienced’ Echiejile.
For the midfielders, I decided to list Victor Moses as a midfielder, and this was done [before Simon’s injury was announced] to create space in the forward department for Crotone’s striker, Simeon Nwankwo.
But with Simon now ruled out, I expect to see Joel Obi take his place, reluctantly and this is because since his return to the Eagles, the Torino man hasn’t impressed. It is a straight contest between him and Uche Agbo who joins Mikel Agu to watch from home.
For me, I have decided to drop Agbo, it hasn’t really worked for him and Agu in the Eagles, especially Agbo, who is yet to feature under the Franco-German coach, but it wouldn’t come as a shock if the Belgian based player is preferred for his versatility.
Here, it gladdens my heart that Junior Lokosa was named in the initial 30-man list and will get an opportunity to show what he’s capable of when he makes a justified debut against DR Congo on Monday, in Port Harcourt.
Nevertheless, I expect that would be his only reward for netting 18 goals in the first half of the Nigerian Professional Football League, the NPFL.
— ?? Super Eagles (@NGSuperEagles) May 24, 2018
Simy Nwankwo looks destined for the World Cup, and if there was any doubt at all, Simon’s unfortunate absence means the Crotone forward, who offers something we don’t have in the team, a target man, will be representing his nation in Russia this summer- except of course Rohr shocks us by taking Lokosa instead.
That said, here is my list of seven to join several millions of Nigerians to cheer on the Eagles, as they soar above the world;
▪ Stephen Eze
▪ Elderson Echiejile
▪ Moses Simon
▪ Junior Lokosa
▪ Mikel Agu
▪ Daniel Akpeyi
▪ Uche Agbo