30 days to Russia 2018: Rohr’s list and imminent issues

Super Eagles of Nigeria
Super Eagles of Nigeria

The exorbitant wish of football-crazy Nigerians is that the Super Eagles represent Nigeria well in Russia by being worthy opponents of whichever country they have to face.

With 32 days to their opening match against Croatia in Kaliningrad, Super Eagles’ manager, Gernot Rohr, on Monday released his 30-man provisional list for the Russia 2018 World Cup. It included Junior Lokosa, who has scored 18 goals in the Nigeria Professional Football League, and Simeon [Simy] Nwankwo, who scored five goals for Serie A side, Crotone in April.

Rohr showed his hand with the list – a team for the future! The 30-man list has an average age of 24.96, and the eight-man midfield list shows the most experience – 25.12.

Also, 11 of the 30 players have less than 10 appearances while 10 have less than 20 caps translated to less than 20 appearances on the average, which shows a largely inexperienced squad compared to Iceland whose average is 38 caps for their 23-man squad.

The most active in the season was Olaoluwa Aina, a right back, on loan from Chelsea at Hull City, who played 44 matches while the players with the least minutes under his belt was Elderson Echiejile, who played just nine times the whole season.

For the 2017/18 season, all the outfield players minus Junior Lokosa who is still active for Kano Pillars in the Nigeria Professional Football season scored 58 goals. Another fact is that only three players – Echiejile, John Ogu, and Joel Obi are the strictly left-footed players on the list, a situation that could lead to some imbalances in the preparing the team tactically.

The composition of the Eagles squad shows a team missing an accomplished world-class star like Croatia have in Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, and Argentina have in Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero. But Rohr has said he is building a team of ultra competitors.

“I said already, today I do not have a lot of stars, but we want to have a big team with a winning mentality, great discipline in the field and beyond, and a great deal of mutual solidarity and communion. This is the way to success,” Rohr told journalists in Lagos last month.

Rohr has often stated that he is more interested in building for the future than retracing his steps, which showed in the choice of his four goalkeepers.

In an interview with Oma Akatugba after the 1-0 win over Poland in March, Rohr said the Poland test was good for the players and team because it afforded them a high-level test, especially in defending set pieces.

Has this squad list tried to solve this challenge? The answer will be a partial yes because most of the defenders chosen are as tall or taller than six foot and good in the air. Chidozie Awaziem may be a rookie but he fits the mold of defenders needed to protect the goalkeeper from aerial barrages.

NameAgeClubLeague AppsGoalsCapsClub GoalsIndication
Goalkeepers
Ikechukwu Ezenwa29Enyimba70240
Dele Ajiboye27Plateau United11030To be Dropped
Daniel Akpeyi31Chippa United23070
Francis Uzoho19Deportivo La Coruna27030
Defenders
William Troost-Ekong24Bursaspor270192
Leon Balogun29Mainz 05140160
Chidozie Awaziem21Nantes [On Loan]22041
Stephen Eze24Lokomotiv Plovdiv80130To be Dropped
Bryan Idowu25Amkar Perm27130
Olaoluwa Aina21Hull City [On Loan]44040
Kenneth Omeruo24Kasimpasa [On Loan]280371
Elderson Echiiejile30Cercle Brugge93600
Tyronne Ebuehi22ADO Den Haag28040
Abdullahi Shehu25Bursaspor330221
Midfielders
Mikel Obi31Tianjin Teda106831
Ogenyi Onazi25Trabzonspor211502
Wilfred Ndidi21Leicester City330160
Joel Obi26Torino220155To be Dropped
Mikel Agu24Bursaspor22052To be Dropped
Oghenekaro Etebo22Las Palmas311124
Uche Agbo22Standard Liege [On Loan]34011To be Dropped
John Ogu30Hapoel Be’er Sheva282183
Forwards
Odion Ighalo28Changchun Yatai104177
Victor Moses27Chelsea2811323
Alex Iwobi22Arsenal264163
Ahmed Musa25CSKA Moscow [On Loan]1513696
Kelechi Iheanacho21Leicester City
...
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