When Nigeria’s Super Eagles face their Zambian counterparts in what could be a decisive 2018 World Cup qualifier on Saturday, Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr will be faced with extra decisions to make regarding his playing personnel, more than ever.
Since taking charge of the team last year, Rohr’s starting XI have always picked itself most times with little or no disagreements trailing his choices per time. This is expected to change on Saturday.
This is because two players who have always started whenever they have been available under Rohr are back and in fine fettle, putting the overused cliché “You don’t change a winning team” to serious test.
Goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi and winger (or attacking midfielder whichever way you prefer it) Alex Iwobi missed the team’s impressive doubleheader against Cameroon last month due to injury but the duo are available for selection this weekend.
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South Africa based Akpeyi who came under fire in many quarters after the demoralizing loss to South Africa in June has bounced back with the Chippa United side and has kept goal in their last four league games, keeping clean sheets in two of them and posting a Man-of-the-Match performance in their 1-1 draw against leaders Golden Arrows last Saturday.
One thing is sure: Gernot Rohr trusts Akpeyi and he has shown that countless times. This year alone, Rohr started the former Heartland goalkeeper barely 24 hours after he arrived London in a friendly against Senegal in March and still insisted on inviting the 31-year old for the last games against Cameroon after he was hung out to dry in June.
With the way the former Bordeaux manager has worked with Nigeria, it is easy to see that when Mr Rohr trusts a player, he sticks to him regardless of what people’s opinions are: cue Ogenyi Onazi, Elderson Echiejile and even Ahmed Musa.
Where the headache lies for Rohr is that, despite the assured displays of Ikechukwu Ezenwa against Cameroon in Uyo and for the most of the WAFU Cup of Nations in Ghana, the few errors which eventually defined his display in Yaounde and in the WAFU final may have sent certain messages to the coach as it has raised more questions in the minds of Nigerians.
Iwobi will be going head to head with Belgium based Daddy Moses Simon who deputized well on the left of the attack in his absence.
Like Akpeyi, Iwobi also had a game to forget against South Africa but his recent appearances for his English side Arsenal, particularly the battling display against Chelsea and the goalscoring performance against Brighton on Sunday will get the Franco-German coach drawing more curves on his graph.
Iwobi scored against Saturday’s opponent in the reverse fixture in Ndola while his contribution against Algeria in Uyo could not go unnoticed. Granted they were about a year ago, but the 21-year old has more than done enough to give Rohr a positive selection dilemma come Saturday.
What do you say? Should Rohr stick to the Cameroon team or should he bring back this duo in place of their deputies? Let’s have your take on the comments section. Thank you.