The Super Eagles are 15 days away from their Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup first Group D match against Croatia in Kaliningrad. Gernot Rohr on Wednesday dropped four players from his 30-man provisional list, thus making his final 23 predictable. Completesportsnigeria.com’s JOHNNY EDWARD looks at the eleven players who fits Rohr’s likely 4-3-3 line-up formation for the game against Croatia on June 16, barring any last minute injury.
Francis Uzoho (Deportivo La Coruna)
Since his debut for Nigeria in the 4-2 international friendly win over Argentina last November, Francis Uzoho has continued to grow in confidence and composure in goal for Nigeria. Though he has kept only one clean sheet in three starts (four appearances in all) for Nigeria, Uzoho remains the best performing goalkeeper in the team at the moment. With Ikechukwu Ezenwa dropped and Daniel Akpeyi still not back to his very best, Uzoho remains a sure bet to be in goal for Nigeria in Russia.
It’s unfortunate that Francis Uzoho could only manage two appearances for the first team of Deportivo La Coruna before his move to the B team in the third tier division in Spain where he kept 15 clean sheets and conceded 17 goals in 26 appearances.
Shehu Abdulahi (Bursaspor)
Shehu Abdullhi remains the best option for the Super Eagles at right-back. The duo of Ola Aina and Tyronne Ebuehi have not posted convincing performances to prove that they can dislodge him in that position. Since his move away from Anorthosis Famagusta of Cyprus, Abdullahi has improved with deliveries, and on his back-tracking as well.
Elderson Echiejile (Cercle Brugge)
AS Monaco defender, Echiejile, is not up to his best level but in terms of his experience, has an edge over Bryan Idowu and Ola Aina who are in competition for the two available spots at left back with him. The pair of Idowu and Aina lack experience at the biggest stage and both have not been convincing in the games they have played for the team.
The 30 year old defender made his most recent appearance for the Super Eagles in Monday’s 1-1 draw with DR Congo and was replaced at half time following his below par performance, but he remains the first choice pick.
Leon Balogun and William Troost Ekong
Fondly dubbed the Oyinbo wall, the duo of Leon Balogun and William Troost Ekong have formed a great partnership playing together in the heart of the Super Eagles defence. They look guaranteed as the first choice starters as he Super Eagles’ centre-backs in Russia. Ekong’s aerial prowess and pace have also been complemented with Balogun’s brilliance, ball-winning and passing skills.
Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor)
Since recovering from the hamstring injury he copped while playing for his club, Trabzonspor, Ogenyi Onazi is gradually getting back into good shape. His performance for his club towards the end of the 2017/18 campaign has seen him play his way back into Gernot Rohr’s plans for the World Cup.
Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City)
Ndidi enjoyed an outstanding season with Leicester City in the English Premier League season until he sustained an hamstring injury. The 21 year old midfielder was perhaps the most in-form Nigerian midfielder until his injury. He is expected to play a part in Saturday’s international friendly against England at Wembley.
Ndidi, who was voted Leicester City’s Young Player of the Year has flourished playing alongside Onazi in the defensive midfield role.
Mikel Obi (Tianjin TEDA)
Super Eagles captain, Mikel Obi brings the creative spark for the team going forward. His wealth of experience will be massively needed by the team to unlock tight defences. His guile and calmness on the ball helped the three-time African champions dictate the pace of the game during the qualifiers. If the Super Eagles are to shine in Russia, Mikel must be at his very best to help the team blossom.
Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow/ Leicester City)
Ahmed Musa’s scoring form improved when he joined CSKA Moscow on loan from Leicester City in January, and that also helped him play his way back into reckoning with the Super Eagles. Musa scored seven goals in 16 appearances for the Russian side after a miserable first half of the season with Leicester City, where he made only one appearance for the first team. On current form, Musa will be preferred to Alex Iwobi who has been inconsistent and Moses Simon who is currently nursing a thigh injury.
Victor Moses (Chelsea)
Victor Moses had an outstanding season for Chelsea in the English Premier League as the dethroned champions salvaged their season by winning the Emirates FA Cup. Moses has been performing well at the l top level and his freshness heading into the World Cup will offer the Super Eagles another dimension in attack.
Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai)
Odion Ighalo is certain to start games for Nigeria at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. He has shown that if he gets the creative support from the midfield, will deliver. The former Watford striker is capable of playing alone up front and will trouble defenders with his trickeries on the ball and pace. So far he has scored seven goals in 11 Chinese Super League games for his team, Changchun Yatai.