In Gernot Rohr’s mind, he will have at least 14 players already penciled down for the 2018 World Cup to be held in Russia. But he needs 23.
So, having already qualified for Russia 2018, the match against Algeria on Friday affords some fringe players the chance to rubber-stamp their places on the flight to Russia.
These five players can gain a foothold in Rohr’s heart by putting in great performances against the Desert Foxes and then against Argentina in Krasnodar next Tuesday.
For a player of Ogu’s pedigree, a paltry figure of four caps is a misnomer. The defensive midfielder can act as a foil and is also steady with his passing. In showings for Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the Europa League last season and in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers, Ogu has shown a fine class. In the last qualifying match against Zambia, many fans were surprised he was overlooked for Mikel Agu once it became apparent Ogenyi Onazi would not be able to continue the match midway through the first half. He will be chomping at the bits on being given another chance to show his worth to the team maybe not as a starter but as one of the first options off the bench.
With the two central defensive positions already nailed down by Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong, Awaziem is looking to becoming the first option over the likes of Kenneth Omeruo and Uche Agbo. The young defender’s form has picked up since his loan move to Nantes in Ligue 1 and the arrival of the very experienced Claudio Ranieri as manager. He was unlucky on his debut to be part of the Super Eagles team that was defeated 2-0 by South Africa in Uyo in July, but at just 20, he has more to give the team as he acquires more experience in France.
The speedster is not shy about what he can do but he is yet to convince Rohr that he is better than the likes of Ahmed Musa and Moses Simon. After making his debut against Togo last June, he has not been afforded another opportunity to prove his mettle. Onyekuru was described as an attacking gem by Ligue 1 website after his showing against PSG in the Champions League and he now has another chance to make a proper debut, with Nigerians watching on. If chosen against Algeria, he will seek to gain a foothold in Rohr’s mind as the German manager settles on the 23 players he will be shepherding to Russia in 2018.
Ebuehi is yet to be properly capped by Nigeria. This right-sided defender has been churning out very good performances for ADO in the Dutch league this current season and will be hoping to make the same sort of impression on Rohr if he starts against Algeria even though he would have to give an outstanding performance to oust Shehu Abdullahi permanently. The right back slot has been a position of concern for Rohr having tried as much as four players in the position since he took over the reins of the Eagles in August 2016.
A gifted midfielder, who can do a job on both flanks, was formerly one of the first names on Rohr’s matchday list. That standing was however flushed down the drain by the lackadaisical performance that led to a 2-0 defeat from South Africa in a 2019 Nations Cup qualifier last August. A standout player at the last Olympics, where he scored four times against Japan, Etebo needs a strong performance in Algeria to renew Rohr’s confidence in him.
|Tyronne Ebuehi||21||ADO Den Haag||Defender||11||0|
|John Ogu||29||Hapoel Be’er Sheva||Midfielder||7||1|