Francis Uzoho’s consistent run in the Segunda B league with Deportivo La Coruna and his impressive second-half cameo against world vice champions Argentina has earned him another invitation to the Eagles for the next round of friendlies against Poland and Serbia.
After his towering performance during the last African Nations Championship and a recent move to Bulgarian side Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Stephen Eze has now been promoted to the Super Eagles ‘A’ team.
After almost 5 years out of the Super Eagles due to an inconsistent career plagued by injuries, Joel Obi has earned a recall to the Eagles fold on the back of regular appearances in Italy with Torino. Junior Ajayi’s impressively consistent run in front of goal, albeit in Egypt with Al Ahly, at a time when the Super Eagles are in dire need of in-form strikers, has duly been rewarded with an invitation to the team.
These and others probably point to Coach Gernot Rohr’s commitment to putting out a worthy Super Eagles team at the upcoming World Cup. By inviting and recalling a few more deserving players showing a rich vein of club form for the friendly matches against Poland and Serbia, Rohr continues to inspire genuine belief that his Super Eagles project is on the right path to glory in Russia and beyond. However, the job doesn’t stop with the invitations.
Russia fires back at the UK, refer to 2018 World Cup
It is now less than 100 days to the big kick-off in Russia, meaning, limited time to integrate the best players into a winning unit. More than half the work has been done after more than half of the team had been cultivated over the last year. What is now left is fine-tuning and supplementing; finding and deploying the best personnel to optimally deliver basic and alternative team formations and tactics.
Pre-World Cup friendly - Russia 2018 World Cup
The pre-World Cup friendly matches are obviously meant for this purpose and, going by his antecedents, Coach Rohr will most probably keep faith with the old brigade.
However, since he already has a fair (if not total) idea of what his team’s ‘regulars’ are capable of, these initial friendlies should also be used to offer the fringe players a chance to strut their stuff – for proper assessment, to see what new variety or dimension some of them can bring to the table.
It would be very beneficial to the team’s continued development to have the likes of Akpeyi, Ezenwa, Ekong, Shehu, Balogun, Onazi, Ndidi, Mikel, Moses, and Ighalo take the backstage temporarily, and make way for Uzoho, Ebuehi, Idowu, Aina, Agbo, Omeruo, Awaziem, Ogu, Obi, Etebo, Ajayi to feature a bit more prominently in a semi-competitive situation.
Then also is the need to utilize players based on their strengths. The coach needs to pay attention to and deploy each player based on his strengths or mode of operation (which informed his selecting them in the first place).
For instance, Junior Ajayi plays more effectively when he has supporting players running off him, than as a lone striker; he should therefore not be expected to play like Odion Ighalo. Kelechi Iheanacho plays best as a support striker; not central or wide of a three-man attack.
Oghenekaro Etebo is more of a box-to-box midfielder, not a playmaker a la John Mikel Obi, and so should not be expected to perform like his captain.
These matches and others to come should be immensely beneficial to the Super Eagles’ World Cup preparations if utilized systematically. The coach should seize the opportunity to forestall a looming selection headache by beginning now to prune his team.
He should ensure to do this devoid of any sentiment by ensuring that only the best players, with the right attitude and who are relevant to the team – irrespective of where they play, or whether they played during the qualifiers – are picked to represent the country.