In football, they say it is not over until the fat lady sings. For some prospective players who are still eyeing a place in the Russia-bound Super Eagles squad, the national team manager, Gernot Rohr has said he will continue to look for new players.
After the 4-2 win over Argentina in a friendly in Krasnodar, Rohr told journalists, “The team is not there yet; we tried a new formation against one of the best teams (Argentina) in the world and you can all see the impact, so we will continue to find the right solutions for this team.
“It’s possible to still see new faces next year because we will give every player a chance to prove to us they deserve to wear the national jersey. We will get there soon, hopefully.”
Here are five players who may gatecrash the final Super Eagles 23-man squad that will confront Argentina, Croatia, and Iceland.
Joel Chukwuma Obi made his Serie A debut for Inter Milan against Cagliari in 2010, when he was 19. When he made yet another return from injury on October 29, it was against Cagliari, and he scored to give Torino a 2-1 win.
If a player’s career has been held back from achieving probable lofty heights because of injury, then it is Joel, whose Ibo name, Chukwuma, means ‘God Knows’.
Obi has made just 94 appearances in the seven years since he jogged on to the San Siro pitch to replace a certain Philippe Coutinho.
In the time that has passed, Coutinho’s value has risen to $76 million while Obi’s value has drastically reduced to $1.8 million.
Samson Siasia gave Obi his Super Eagles’ debut in 2011, in a friendly game against Sierra Leone at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.
Fondly called ‘Passmaster’ [Passa for short], the real captain of the U-23 team that represented Nigeria at the Rio Olympics, the 20-year-old would thrive in a 3-5-2 formation, playmaking from deep with the ability to play both long and short passes adroitly.
Siasia recently told some journalists that association with him could be costing the midfielder though Rohr has always posited that no player has been exclusively ruled out of making the squad to Russia.
This is from the far left field. Success was supposedly the star of the U-17 team that went and won the World Cup in the UAE in 2013. But while Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho have become mainstays in the Super Eagles, Success has earned just a cap – a match against Senegal early in March 2017.
In that game, he showed all his qualities against quite physically imposing Senegalese defenders. But since then, it has been one injury after another coupled with some bad press. If he can overcome his personal problems, he could still force his way into Rohr’s heart.
Ideye was the striker that started the World Cup group qualifiers away to Zambia but he has been left out of the equation since the second match in the group.
Playing in China is not a factor but not playing regularly for Tianjin Teda and his present demotion to the reserve bench will not serve his cause. He missed out in the 2014 squad at the last minute and that same scenario that made him miss the Brazil tournament is playing out again.
A move in January and some goals could get him back into the team.
One of the positions Rohr and his technical team are still looking to fill is the central attacking position after it became very apparent that Iheanacho cannot play effectively in a 4-2-3-1 formation Rohr favours.
Martins still has the speed and the power to get away from defenders, coupled with his experience garnered over the course of his nomadic career.
The 33-year-old led Shanghai Greenland Shenhua to the Chinese FA Cup. ‘Obagoal’ is Nigeria’s fifth most potent forward with 18 goals in 40 appearances for the Eagles. If he makes it to Russia, be certain he will add to that tally.
Asked how he managed to qualify Nigeria for the World Cup, Rohr told L’Equipe: ”It’s thanks to the quality of the players. There are some at a very high level. We found the right mix; the good mix of youth and experience. A group was formed about fifteen months ago, to which we decided to integrate a lot of young people.
”Players who are already in big clubs for some, like Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City) and others. With these new and some old, we built a team that led the way, which was very effective during the playoffs.”
The Eagles are grouped with familiar foes: Argentina, skillful Croatia and unpredictable Iceland – this group looks both hard and easy but the right mix of players should see the Super Eagles progress to the round of 16.