With two back-to-back friendly matches against Serbia and Poland slated for later in the month, Gernot Rohr released a 28-man list for the matches on Wednesday. Rumours were quashed with some omissions while hopes were raised on some additions.
But one thing is clear from the list, Rohr has shown his hand on what his final 23-man squad would look like barring any last minute injuries.
Uzoho is looking more like Rohr’s No.1
With Vincent Enyeama nowhere in sight and the efforts being made by the technical crew to work with the available goalkeepers, it increasingly looks likely that 19-year-old Francis Uzoho will man the posts for the Super Eagles in Russia come June.
Uzoho, the second goalkeeper after Dele Alampasu at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup, has played the majority of the season with Deportivo La Coruna in the second division in Spain though he played two matches for the senior side – against Eibar last October and against Girona on October 23.
In his only cap against Argentina last November in Krasnodar, he looked assured and capable. Rohr told a Radio Station on March 1 that he has not decided on who would be the Eagles No. 1 as goalkeeper trainer, Pionetti Enrico, who went to Spain to work with Uzoho would also travel to South Africa and Portugal to do the same with Akpeyi and Alampasu.
But if I were a betting man, I would say at this point [with 90% probability] that Uzoho is No.1 in Rohr’s mind. “Uzoho is working hard, but he is only third choice keeper at La Coruna, and very young. Let’s work on all our goalkeepers.
“We will give the same attention to Alampasu, Agu will work on the local lads as well. We will work equally with all the goalkeepers we have available, even with Akpeyi in South Africa,” Rohr said on Mega Radio.
|Francis Uzoho||Abdullahi Shehu||Mikel John Obi||Ahmed Musa|
|Ikechukwu Ezenwa||Tyronne Ebuehi||Ogenyi Onazi||Kelechi Iheanacho|
|Daniel Akpeyi||Olaoluwa Aina||Wilfred Ndidi||Moses Simon|
|Elderson Echiejile||Oghenekaro Etebo||Victor Moses|
|Brian Idowu||John Ogu||Odion Ighalo|
|Chidozie Awaziem||Uche Agbo||Alex Iwobi|
|William Troost-Ekong||Joel Obi||Junior Ajayi|
|Leon Balogun||Gabriel Okechukwu|
|* The highlighted players are the ones most likely to be dropped|
Ideye may miss out despite Malaga move
Brown Ideye moved to Malaga in January to fulfill his World Cup move but that wish will be jeopardised if Al Ahly’s Junior Ajayi does well in the two friendly matches against Poland and Serbia. Ideye has been fraught with bad luck as it concerns the World Cup since 2010 when Lars Lagerback dropped him on the way to South Africa.
His form tailed off after the 2013 AFCON triumph and Stephen Keshi dropped him. It currently looks like the three months inactivity before his Malaga move will now curtail his going to Russia. Also, the likes of Obafemi Martins, Success Isaac, and Anthony Nwakaeme can effectively plan for pundits’ jobs during the Mundial.
|Francis Uzoho||19||Deportivo La Coruna [Spain]||1|
|Ikechukwu Ezenwa||29||Enyimba FC [Nigeria]||24|
|Daniel Akpeyi||31||Chippa United [South Africa]||7|
|Abdullahi Shehu||24||Bursaspor [Turkey]||21|
|Tyronne Ebuehi||22||ADO Den Haag [Netherlands]||2|
|Olaoluwa Aina||21||Hull City [England]||3|
|Elderson Echiejile||30||Cercle Brugge [Belgium]||60|
|Brian Idowu||25||Amkar Perm [Russia]||1|
|Chidozie Awaziem||21||Nantes [France]||3|
|William Troost-Ekong||24||Bursaspor [Turkey]||17|
|Leon Balogun||28||Mainz FC [Germany]||15|
|Kenneth Omeruo||24||Kasimpasa [Turkey]||36|
|Stephen Eze||24||Lokomotiv Plovdiv [Bulgaria]||13|
|Mikel John Obi||30||Tianjin Teda [China]||82|
|Ogenyi Onazi||25||Trabzonspor [Turkey]||48|
|Wilfred Ndidi||21||Leicester City [England]||14|
|Oghenekaro Etebo||22||Las Palmas [Spain]||12|
|John Ogu||29||Hapoel Be’er Sheva [Israel]||16|
|Uche Agbo||22||Standard Liege [Belgium]||1|
|Joel Obi||26||Torino [Italy]||15|
|Ahmed Musa||25||CSKA Moscow [Russia]||67|
|Kelechi Iheanacho||21||Leicester City [England]||14|
|Moses Simon||22||KAA Gent [Belgium]||19|
|Victor Moses||27||Chelsea [England]||30|
|Odion Ighalo||28||Changchun Yatai [China]||14|
|Alex Iwobi||21||Arsenal [England]||14|
|Junior Ajayi||22||Al Ahly [Egypt]||0|
|Gabriel Okechukwu||22||Akwa United [Nigeria]||5|
Apart from Ikechukwu Ezenwa, who did his World Cup chances no harm in Morocco, the duo of Stephen Eze and Gabriel Okechukwu enhanced their reputations. Eze has since joined Lokomotiv Plovdiv in Bulgaria.
The gangly former Kano Pillars’ defender and made the team of the week last weekend. For Okechukwu, who was not a starter for the Eagles in Morocco, but rose from the bench to score two goals, it is a chance to gauge his own progress.
The average age of the invited players is approximately 24.5, which means Nigeria will parade almost the youngest squad in Russia with England providing the highest number of invitees – five.
The 28-man list also shows that there are many greenhorns in the team with nine boasting less than 10 caps while the team has just three players with more than 50 caps.
In totality, the list is a good one, a progressive development from which a competitive Super Eagles squad should emerge. We are counting down to Russia!