Super Eagles’ predictable World Cup team

Super Eagles By: Imo-owo Mbede | 16/05/2018

From the Super Eagles’ somewhat consistent team composition over the last year, it was obvious that Coach Gernot Rohr already had a fair idea of his World Cup team and so there are no major surprises in his recent provisional World Cup list.

The Super Eagles is going to the World Cup with what could be considered one of the most unified Super Eagles’ team in recent history. Coach Rohr does not look to tamper with his team whose major strength is in this unison. The fact that the list is only 30-man strong further strengthens this notion, because it is easier to prune this number down to the final 23.

However, with deficiencies in certain departments, a 35-man provisional squad would have given him more options, without hurting his team’s stability.

With no wholesale changes to his team, Coach Rohr’s posturing infers that very little or nothing at all will be done about some of these prevailing shortcomings – especially in goal and in attacking/creative midfield.

Seven players will be dropped between now and the World Cup and it is not difficult to tell who since they will come predominantly from amongst the fringe players, barring injuries to the more established regulars.

From the list of players just released to prosecute the final phase of World Cup preparation, the following – in my estimation – will probably not make the final cut, barring any injuries.

Daniel Akpeyi has kept his place as the first choice in South Africa’s Chippa United but has not been quite as impressive in the Super Eagles. I think Dele Ajiboye is a more confident and experienced goalkeeper and should be on the plane to Russia ahead of Akpeyi.

Being half-Russian, Brian Idowu should be in the team to the World Cup as he would probably engender local support for the Eagles. If performance is the overriding parameter for selection then, sadly, there has been nothing about his performances so far to show he deserves a place ahead of, for instance, the more experienced, even if waning Uwa Echiejile.

The World Cup may have come a little too early for Stephen Eze. His stature and impressive prospects earned him a recent move to Europe at the turn of the year, but he simply does not possess the requisite experience at this level just yet, especially when compared to the relatively younger defenders.

Coach Gernot Rohr (or somebody else in the football hierarchy) must have some covert interest in Mikel Agu, hence his consistent invitation to the senior national team.

It is bewildering, defeats sane logic and seriously questions Coach Rohr’s credentials how a more naturally endowed player like Anderson Esiti remains alienated from the Eagles, yet Agu makes the team. Mikel Agu is simply not amongst Nigeria’s best 30 players today and does not deserve to be in the World Cup team.

It is pleasing to see Joel Obi bounce back to reckoning on the back of his performances at Torino. Sadly though, I think Obi is past his better days and his recent invitation is sentimentally trying to compensate him for the lost years. On his return so far, Obi has been largely pedestrian, offering nothing exceptional, and so has not proven to be better than the younger John Ogu…

The lack of outright strikers to back up Odion Ighalo is a major concern and the emergence and invitation of Simeon Nwankwo and Junior Lokosa is timely. Both have proven to be poachers but while Nwankwo has presence, more experience and will probably evoke fear in defenders from his exploits in Italy, Lokosa is still a rookie on the international circuit (which, on the flipside, could actually be a blessing).

Junior Lokosa is the more probable option to be dropped, but it would be a thing of pride to the Nigerian football league to see him in Russia…

With the players Coach Rohr has shortlisted for the final phase of preparation now out, Nigerians should know what realistic expectations to have of the Super Eagles’ chances in Russia.