There were no surprises in Gernot Rohr’s provisional list of 30 players for the 2018 FIFA World Cup that was released on Monday. The usual suspects made the list while he included two new players – Junior Lokosa (Kano Pillars) and Simeon Nwankwo (Crotone, Italy).
Apart from the duo, every other person in the squad has been in the squad with the German in the past.
Instead of calling up 35 players according to FIFA’s maximum allowance, the 64-year-old decided to bring together a manageable collective that means he is closer to his final 23 than ever.
While a full 35-player call-up could have enabled him to have a wider pool of talents to fight for spots in the team over the next one month before the World Cup starts, like a true German, Rohr has decided to not make promises to too many people.
So which players are likely to be dropped in the final cull
From antecedent, Rohr does not give too many opportunities. Just two games and he was convinced that Joel Obi was the real deal which means the Torino man who has shaken off his injury woes would be playing his first World Cup.
In the same light, just one game and he has overlooked Junior Ajayi and Anthony Nwakaeme in the attack. It means that the duo of Lokosa and Nwankwo would have to present something very formidable for Rohr to think of tampering with his trusted men – Odion Ighalo, Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi, Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho.
And in the middle of the pack, John Obi Mikel, Ogenyi Onazi, Joel Obi, Wilfred Ndidi and Oghenekaro Etebo all have proven themselves through thick and thin under the German. Uche Agbo, John Ogu and Mikel Agu is the trio who have to fight for a final piece of the pie. Who he will drop will depend on form and injury in this department.
In defence, Rohr has a proven central defensive pairing of Leon Balogun and William Ekong that are impenetrable barring injuries. It is in the lack of adequate back up that the department has struggled over time as Kenneth Omeruo has not pulled his weight. The inclusion of Chidozie Awaziem and Stephen Eze means there’s going to be a lot of fight for that spare tire role.
In the full backs, Rohr has a collective
that he has regularly played in order to test their strengths. Brian Idowu who locked down the left back starting slot ahead of Elderson Echiejile and Olaoluwa Aina (a natural right back) in the last friendly matches against Poland and Serbia could become the number one for that role. Shehu Abdullahi and Tyronne Ebuehi took turns playing the right fullback position over the two friendlies in March.
It is in the goalkeepers’ sector that Rohr needs to make a straight choice; one of the four goalkeepers called up will be dropped. Dele Ajiboye and Ikechukwu Ezenwa represent the domestic league and it is one of the duo
that’s expected to leave. Francis Uzoho and Daniel Akpeyi should not feel too comfortable though. They will have to fight for their places.
For Rohr whose mind is largely made up, there will be much to see over the coming weeks.
The final list of 23 players will be announced no later than June 4, according to FIFA regulations.