SUPER Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr has had to defend his recent 24-man squad list for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches against the Republic of Benin and Lesotho after he dropped in-form players and picked the clubless Ahmed Musa.
Yesterday, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) published the names of players invited for the two games on March 27 and 31. In a surprise development, Coach Rohr dropped several players enjoying great runs of form at the moment, including the likes of Genk forward Paul Onuachu, Reading’s Michael Olise and Galatasaray’s Henry Onyekuru have only been named on the standby list.
However, skipper Ahmed Musa who has been clubless since October last year, was named in the squad, creating ripples among sports commentators. Feeling the pressure of the criticism, Mr Rohr came out to say that the dashing winger will not take any part in either of the two matches taking place at Porto Novo and Lagos.
Mr Rohr said: “He is not on the 23-man list but he is invited like a captain, not like a player. Nigerians should expect good football and qualification for the 2021 African Cup of Nations.”
His 24-man list has included three goalkeepers, eight defenders, five midfielders and eight strikers, although there was some controversy about it after centreback Semi Ajayi was named as a midfielder. Five English Premier League players were in the squad including Fulham’s Ola Aina, Leicester City duo Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho, West Bromwich Albion’s Semi Ajayi and Everton’s Alex Iwobi.
Other British-based players in the squad are the Glasgow Rangers duo Joe Aribo and Leon Balogun and Watford centre back William Troost-Ekong. One of the novelties on the standby list is Reading playmaker Michael Olise, who is also eligible to represent the French and English national teams but is committed to Nigeria.
Among those called up are fit-again 2015 U17 World Cup winners Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze. There is also a first time call-up for Enyimba goalkeeper John Noble and in-form Almeria striker Sadiq Umar.
Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam/NED), Francis Uzoho (Apoel Nicosia/CYP), John Noble (Enyimba)
William Ekong (Watford/ENG), Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes/SPA), Leon Balogun (Rangers/SCO),Chidozie Awaziem (Boavista/POR), Jamilu Collins (Paderborn/GER), Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto/POR), Ola Aina (Fulham/ENG), Tyronne Ebuehi (FC Twente/NED)
Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City/ENG), Oghenekaro Etebo (Galatasaray/TUR), Shehu Abdullahi (Omonia Nicosia/CYP), Joe Aribo (Rangers/SCO), Semi Ajayi (West Brom/ENG)
Ahmed Musa (no club), Moses Simon (FC Nantes/FRA), Alex Iwobi (Everton/ENG), Samuel Kalu (Bordeaux/FRA), Victor Osimhen (Napoli /ITA), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City/ENG), Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal CF/SPA), Sadiq Umar (UD Almeria/SPA)
Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs/RSA), Paul Onuachu (Genk/BEL), Terem Moffi (FC Lorient), Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray/TUR), Michael Olise (Reading/ENG), Peter Olayinka (Slavia Prague/Czech), Adekunle Adeleke (Abia Warriors).