Completesportsnigeria.com’s JOHNNY EDWARD profiles seven players in Gernot Rohr’s 28-man squad for the Pre-World Cup friendlies who have a point to prove with the Super Eagles…
Junior Ajayi (Al Ahly, Egypt)
Junior Ajayi has developed so quickly in the Egyptian league playing for Al Ahly such that the 23 year old striker will be itching to make his debut and remind everyone of his value at the biggest stage for the Super Eagles.
The former CS Sfaxien forward missed a great chance to show his capabilities at the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil due to injury, but for the games against Poland and Serbia whether he gets a role as a striker or a cameo on the wings, Ajayi will need to underline his credentials to Gernot Rohr and show he has a lot in him to lead the lines for the Super Eagles.
Joel Obi (Torino, Italy)
After battling several spells on the sidelines due to his injuries, Obi will have the chance to prove he deserves his place again in the Super Eagles.
The Torino midfielder is currently having his best season in the Italian Serie A with Torino since he made his debut eight years ago. Obi missed Torino’s defeat to AS Roma due to a suspected hamstring injury and it remains to be seen if he will feature in the friendly matches.
The 26-year-old will be a vital cog in the wheel for the Super Eagles midfield at the World Cup, if he stays fit. So, a decent game in the friendlies will definitely put him back in the frame for a place in Nigeria’s World Cup squad.
Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow)
Since dropping down the pecking order in the Super Eagles squad, Ahmed Musa has played second fiddle to the trio of Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi and Moses Simon.
With Moses, Iwobi and Simon preferred to the Russia-based winger in the Super Eagles starting lineup, a good performance in the games against Poland and Serbia will put Musa back in reckoning for a place in the starting lineup for the three-time African champions.
Brian Idowu (Amkar Perm, Russia)
Super Eagles left back Elderson Echiejile missed the game against Argentina and that gave Ola Aina and Brian Idowu an opportunity to showcase themselves playing in the left wing back role. Idowu capped his debut appearance with a goal, which gave the Super Eagles a 3-2 lead in the international friendly which Nigeria eventually won.
The FC Amkar Perm defender will be hoping to prove his mettle with the return of the first choice left back Echiejile and Ola Aina also in the squad. Idowu has scored once in 21 league games in the Russian topflight division. A fine performance in the friendlies may just make Rohr and his technical teams ponder about handing him a chance in the World Cup bound team.
Eze Stephen (Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Bulgaria)
Eze Stephen’s performance at the African Nations Championship gave him a rare chance in the main Super Eagles team and he must now grab the opportunity with both hands to hold on to his spot.
Even if the Home Eagles lost in two finals – the West African Football Union Nations (WAFU) tournament and the African Nations Championship, Eze’s form for the team earned him a place in the team of the tournament.
He will be up against the likes of Kenneth Omeruo, Uche Agbo and Chidozie Awaziem for the final two centre-back spots in the team for the World Cup.
Okechukwu Gabriel (Akwa United)
In 2015, Okechukwu Gabriel made the headlines after he was named on the substitute’s bench for the Super Eagles in an African Nations qualifier against Chad in Kaduna and he was handed the iconic No. 10 jersey by the late Stephen Keshi.
Three years on, the 22 year old Akwa United striker has developed very well but there is no guarantee that he will have a place in Nigeria’s preliminary squad for the World Cup.
With several players in the squad capable of playing as a backup striker to the team’s first choice, Gabriel will have to take his chance if he is to be assured of a spot in the team.
Odion Ighalo is already guaranteed of a spot for the World Cup barring any severe injury, the final spot for a striker currently in the team is a fight between Junior Ajayi and Gabriel.
So it’s safe to say that an impressive performance for the Super Eagles will however mean that the 22-year-old is all but guaranteed at least another chance in the team for the next friendly against DR Congo in May.
Uche Agbo (Standard Liege, Belgium)
Uche Agbo has not featured for the Super Eagles since he has been receiving invitation to the team. Getting an opportunity to play will give him a chance to prove his place in the team.