The Super Eagles bring out raw emotions from Nigerians and they are quick to round on players and coaches when they feel that something is wrong. Gernot Rohr has thus far escaped a lot of criticisms principally because his teams have been winning.
Many believe that being European, he will not fall into the trap of coaches who have called up players due to outside pecuniary influences. This squad now is being questioned. I am particularly worried that there is no place in the squad for Kenneth Omeruo. It is easy to dismiss that Omeruo has not been playing well for the Super Eagles lately but in his defence he has been deployed in the right-back position which is not his natural position.
When South Africa came to Uyo the other day and beat Nigeria convincingly 2 nil I had worried about how young the team looked. “A team can be too young” I remember tweeting before the match. In the squad now there is no experience to cover for Leon Balogun should the Mainz 05 defender get injured or even get sent off. Omeruo only 4 years ago was the young player that consigned then Skipper Joseph Yobo to the bench as Nigeria won the AFCON. He followed it up by being one of our best players at the Brazil based 2014 world cup. He needs to be in the squad as an experienced cover for the first choice Oyibo Wall partnership.
Sometime last year, Nigeria made a huge show of calling up Tyrone Ebuehi for the national team. The Ado Den Haag player was pretty confused and took his time before accepting the call up. Since he accepted it, he has made a few squads but has only played 45 minutes in a friendly against Togo. Ebuehi is the first choice at his Eredivisie side but he has now been relegated to ‘Standby’ status in favour of the Hull City defender Ola Aina. The optics are bad. You can’t make such a show of calling up a player with dual nationality and then without giving him an official full cap, drop him for a player in the lower leagues in England.
It is not enough to claim that you will be fair to all Nigerians who are available for selection as Rohr has been quoted as saying many times; he must be seen to be fair. You can’t say you are going to choose footballers in form but end up calling a lot of players who do not even make match day squads at their clubs. Is there no natural left back in the NPFL that can step up and challenge Elderson Echiejile for that slot? The Sivasspor of Turkey defender has served Nigeria meritoriously and still deserves his place but we need a worthy back up and I am certain there will be in the Nigerian league.
These 23 players called up should be good enough to get the World Cup ticket but Rohr and his technical crew must know they will work quite hard to get the right balance in the World Cup squad.