The Super Eagles of Nigeria will seek to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations with a win against the formidable Bafana Bafana of South Africa at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.
South Africa defeated Nigeria 2-0 in the reverse fixture in June 2017 and will hope to make it two wins over the Super Eagles.
Newslegend.com.ng’s IZUCHUKWU OKOSI in this piece runs the rule on the likely starting XI that head coach Gernot Rohr will parade this weekend in the match which could guarantee Nigeria’s passage to next year’s AFCON in Cameroon.
Chippa United goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi was the only goalkeeper among the three (including Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Theophilus Afelokhai) named for the South Africa game that was in action for his club over the weekend.
Akpeyi was impressive in Chippa’s 0-0 away draw against Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday and that could hand him a starting place as the duo of Ezenwa and Afelokhai has not been in league action for Enyimba – their club were knocked out of the CAF Confederation Cup.
Semi Ajayi (Right back)
Rotherham right back Semi Ajayi is likely to get the nod to play at the right back position as Gernot Rohr would like to have an experienced player as back up for the duo of central defensive pair of William Troost Ekong and Leon Balogun in Kenneth Omeruo who is adept at playing at right back.
Ajayi is good defensively and going forward to deliver crosses and a good performance in the absence of injured Shehu Abdullahi could see him get more opportunities.
Jamiliu Collins (Left back)
Paderborn of Germany left back Jamiliu Collins impressed Nigerians with his performances against Libya in the double header in October and the name ‘Elderson Echiejile’ is fast fading away in the minds if Nigeria football faithful.
Collins’ recovery rate is encouraging and is not easily get past by forwards.
Collins is a natural left back player and surely should be considered for the position ahead of ‘converted’ right footed left back Brian Idowu.
William Troost Ekong
Udinese defender William Troost Ekong will be one of the central defensive duo in the game for Nigeria on Saturday.
A consistent player for the Eagles who has had more impressive displays than the poor ones, Ekong will pair up with Leon Balogun whom he has struck a great understanding with.
Brighton and Hove defender Leon Balogun has not been playing in most of his Premier League’s club’s games thus far this season but nonetheless will get the nod to play at the centre back position as Rohr rarely tweaks his personnel.
His understanding with Ekong will be vital on Saturday and hopefully his lack of game time in England will inspire him to play one of his best games for his country.
John Ogu (Defensive Midfielder)
The Super Eagles will be without Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi due to suspension and Hapoel Be’er Sheva’s John Ogu is likely to be deployed in the defensive midfield role.
Ogu’s fans have been baying for a regular place in the team for the midfielder and Saturday’s clash will provide an opportunity for him to justify his place.
Ogu’s starting place could come at a cost for Porto’s Mikel Agu who has not particularly impressed most Nigerian fans.
Oghenekaro Etebo ( Central Midfielder)
Stoke City midfielder Etebo who recently turned 23 will be the box to box midfielder for Nigeria on Saturday.
Etebo’s energy and ability to keep the ball will be key in Nigeria’s midfield. He is unquestionably one of Nigeria’s key players.
Only injury, suspension or disciplinary issues off the field could see Etebo miss out from the Eagles. That is how important he is to this team.
Alex Iwobi (Attacking Midfielder)
Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi is touted as the much sought after successor to his uncle, Austin Jay Jay Okocha.
The 22 years old is comfortable playing in wide positions which he does so efficiently at his club but considers the attacking midfield role as his best position to flourish.
In the absence of injured captain John Mikel Obi, Iwobi is the most skillful midfield player available to Rohr.
Iwobi’s passes and runs in the middle will open up spaces for the forwards to do their business. The middle is arguably Iwobi’s best position for Nigeria and perhaps in the future for his London club as well.
Ahmed Musa (Left winger)
Super Eagles captain in the absence of Mikel Obi Ahmed Musa has been in great form scoring twice against Libya in October and will be influential as always.
Musa’s starting place on either the left or right side of attack this weekend barring any last minute injury is a given and will definitely be a threat to the South African defence with his searing pace, nimble footedness and assured finish.
Musa has been in devastating form from the left side of attack, cutting inside to unleash shots or waltz his way to opposition goal area with his mazy dribbling skills.
Musa’s 2018 World Cup form where he scored a brace against Iceland and the matches with Seychelles and Libya in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers will have fans drooling at what he could yet do again against the cocky South Africans.
Samuel Kalu (Right winger)
Bordeaux wing wizard Samuel Kalu is expected to occupy one of the three attacking positions for the Super Eagles.
Kalu has been a welcome inclusion in the Eagles following the international retirement of former Chelsea regular under erstwhile manager Antonio Conte, Victor Moses.
Kalu is another player whose speed on the flanks will cause all sorts of nightmares for the South African defenders but he tends to showboat at times when being selfless could be in the best interest of the team.
He needs to cut that out of his game. Kalu, if fit, will start ahead of Levante’s Moses Simon who continues to get back to his fittest best.
Isaac Success (Striker)
Watford striker Isaac Success has been enjoying a run of games for his Premier League side of late and could start as the striker on Saturday.
Top scorer in the 2019 AFCON qualification campaign with five goals in three games Odion Ighalo is injured so misses out quite regretfully for this massive game but in Success Rohr has a player whose style of play mirrors that of the Changchun Yatai striker.
Galatasaray striker Henry Onyekuru is also on red hot form and helped himself to a brace over the weekend but Rohr is a man who trusts in his regular players so Onyekuru will likely come off the bench in the game unless he proves to the former Burkina Faso coach in training that he deserves to start ahead of Success.