The Super Eagles scored seven goals in their last two matches and Odion Ighalo scored five of those goals.
But on a revenge mission to South Africa – after losing the first match of the qualification series in June 2017 – the Eagles now need to pick up at least one point on Saturday to guarantee qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Cup tournament, and they have to do it without Ighalo, ruled out with a hamstring injury.
So who should Gernot Rohr hand over the striking baton to?
Various names come to mind; from Kelechi Iheanacho, who has been warming the bench since Ighalo’s hot scoring streak, Ahmed Musa, Isaac Success, Henry Onyekuru, who is not fully settled into the Eagles, and Victor Osimhen, who has been in the goals.
Talking to Kwese football website, Ighalo said, “It is a very important game for us because we have missed two Nations Cups and we want this so bad. Also, we don’t want to lose to them [South Africa] again.”
Unfortunately, the Eagles will miss his recent potency in front of goal.
While many will think of picking from Iheanacho, Success, Osimhen, and Onyekuru and leaving Musa as a wide forward, Johnny Edward, who writes for Complete Sports trumped for the team’s assistant captain, Musa.
“I’d go for experience at the moment. Musa can also play in that role,” Edward said.
Alternatively, Adeyemi Adesanya wants to freshen up the position.
“A little bit of freshness won’t hurt; I believe this is Onyekuru’s big chance, but knowing Rohr and his reluctance to take bold decisions in his selection; there won‘t be any surprise if he opts for experience with Ihenancho and Musa as part of the front three.
Onyekuru reminded football fans and national team selectors he still knows the way to goals with a brace against Kayserispor last weekend though his record for the Eagles is no competitive goal though he got one against Togo in a friendly in 2017.
Sola Aiyepeku plumped for Isaac Success despite the Watford striker having drawn blanks in his two appearances for the senior team. “He [Success] is big, strong, experienced, and has played under a few systems at Watford. He will also have the desire to prove himself to Nigerians,” Aiyepeku said.
|Name||Club||League||Matches||Minutes||Goals||Minutes per Goal||App/Goals for Nigeria|
|Isaac Success||Watford||EPL||14||615||3||205||February 1, 2000|
|Kelechi Iheanacho||Leicester City||EPL||13||688||2||344||21/8|
|Victor Osimhen||RSC Charleroi||Jupiler Pro League||11||780||6||130||February 1, 2000|
|Henry Onyekuru||Galatasaray||Süper Lig||13||912||4||228||May 1, 2018|
|Ahmed Musa||Al Nassr||Saudi Pro League||8||674||4||169||76/17|
|Odion Ighalo||Changchun Yatai||China Super League||28||2424||21||115||25/10|
Looking at the table above, only Osimhen has the best ‘Minutes per Goal’ column compared to the other strikers except Ighalo. Rohr has also said so many times that it is the present form that determines who is invited but what will determine who replaces the recently-prolific Ighalo against South Africa on Saturday in Johannesburg?
Rotimi Akindele wants Rohr to use “experience and form” to make his choice. “Experience and form will have to go together in this case.”
He explained further: “Not sure there is much experience in that team in terms of forward players but a front three of Musa, Success, and [Samuel] Kalu should do the job.
Chijioke Ezeali believes Rohr’s penchant for the steady instead of experimentation may mean starting either Iheanacho or Success.
“The two direct options are Iheanacho and Success but both might be more dangerous from the bench than actually starting,” he inferred.
“Personally, it won’t be a bad idea to have Musa or the in-form Onyekuru start through the middle and if it is not working Iheanacho or Success can then be introduced.
“I hope Rohr surprises Bafana-Bafana with Musa or Henry through the middle. Which will mean plenty of moment for the team and [Alex] Iwobi can capitalise to score from deep. It is time to see real tactical coaching from the German,” Ezeali added.
For Lolade Adewuyi, former Goal.com Nigeria Editor, it is time for Iheanacho to remind everyone of his goal-scoring instincts. “I consider it an opportunity for Iheanacho to return to the starting XI and prove himself once again.”
Before the recent scoring blitz from Ighalo, Iheanacho had the best goals-per-minute ratio in the current team but unfortunately, his last goal for the Eagles came against Cameroon 14 months ago.
Another pundit, Jide Olaniran, believes Simy Nwankwo should have been called up – adding that the Italy-based striker has not been given enough chances to stake a claim to the No.9 jersey. “I think Nwankwo or Junior Ajayi should have been called up to replace him [Ighalo], these guys have played and still playing on the big stage.
“Yes, there are other guys doing well but I think Nigeria is yet to give these two the opportunity to replicate their club form in the national team.”
So who should get the nod? You can have your say on social media with the hashtag #ToReplaceIghalo.