The Nigeria Football Federation on Monday announced Head coach of the Super Eagles Gernot Rhor’s squad for the double header 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on October 13 and 16 against Libya.
Newslegend’s IZUCHUKWU OKOSI takes a cursory look at the five takeaways from Rhor’s team for the matches.
1. Rhor not willing to invite fans’ favourites.
There has been calls for the invitation of certain players to the Super Eagles but Rhor seems adamant that he has his mind made up on the composition of his team.
Afelokhai, Okiemute Odah (goalkeepers) Arnuad Danjuma, Moses Odubajo, Imoh Ezekiel, Ikouwem Udoh Utin, Mfon Udoh, The Nwakali brothers (Kelechi and Chidiebere), Stephen Eze, Musa Mohammed, Usman Mohammed to name a few from a wide range are some of the players Nigerian football technocrats and fans alike feel can impact positively to the team but rarely get any chance.
For instance, Utin is a NATURAL left back and has been in splendid form for Enyimba but the coach still prefers a Bryan Idowu who is right footed and has struggled in recent matches.
Utin’s club mate, Theophilus Afelokhai continues to shine in goal for the ‘Peoples Elephant’ in the CAF Confederation Cup and instructively makes Ikechukwu Ezenwa (who is a good goalkeeper it must be said) sit on the bench.
But Rhor and his crew are seemingly not keen to hearken to the cries of Nigerians.
2. The Eagles have more pace in the wings without Victor Moses.
Since his announcement of retirement from the Nigerian national team, Victor Moses is fast becoming a forgotten man.
The Chelsea winger (third choice at his position behind Willian and Pedro Rodriguez) at Chelsea has not had the trust of the Blues head coach Maurizio Sarri who does not consider him good enough for the right back role, or the wing back, which Moses was deployed under Antonio Conte.
The likes of Samuel Kalu, and the now fit Moses Simon have abundance of pace down the wings and will bring competition, dynamism and youthfulness to the team. There is also the experienced Ahmed Musa who was Nigeria’s star player at the World Cup in Russia.
Furthermore they are less likely to choose the matches they prefer to play for Nigeria unless injured or RESTED by Rhor.
3. Mikel’s omission: injury related or gradual phaseout?
Captain of the Super Eagles John Mikel Obi is again omitted from the Super Eagles team for the matches against Libya.
The inspirational leader was not in the team for the September 8 game against Seychelles ostensibly due to injury but the question asked by some concerned Nigerians now is if it is not a gradual way of retiring the former Chelsea star.
Perhaps a clearer picture will emerge when the Super Eagles are billed to play South Africa.
Mikel has not publicly stated that he is quitting the national team but the handwriting seems to be on the wall.
Going by his response to this question after Nigeria’s elimination from the 2018 World Cup, he is likely to retire after the 2019 AFCON but before June 30 next year when the final of the tournament will be played, Mikel Obi is still needed in the Eagles.
4. Super Eagles Squad of 24 Not Ideal
Only 14 players will be play on match day and not 24.
The Nigeria Football Federation have always complained about paucity of funds to prosecute some assignments and inviting as much as 24 players with just a week away from the matches could well be too much.
A total of 21 players would have sufficed. Perhaps 18 advocated by some persons is not advisable due to injury concerns. Excluding three names could have meant avoiding more expenses.
The qualifiers are not the tournament itself when a large pool of players are needed to form a preliminary squad.
5. Wing Play In Rhor’s Plans
Gernot Rhor has on his team players like Ahmed Musa, Moses Simon, Samuel Kalu and Henry Onyekuru who are very fast wingers who sometimes play as strikers.
The earlier plan was to play the home leg of the qualifiers in Kaduna but that has changed now with the bigger Akwa Ibom Stadium now preferred as Rhor wants his team to play expansively with the fast wingers on board since the Libyans are likely to go defensive.
The plan is to run the Libyans ragged with speed and that means a likely win for the Super Eagles if only the goals start coming early in the games.
This piece is also published in www.allnigeriasoccer.com