Super Eagles tactician, Gernot Rohr might possibly bite his fingers after letting these five players slip off his hands as he takes Nigeria to the world cup in Russia.
Henry Onyekuru completed a remarkable comeback to even find himself in the discussion for the squad after suffering a knee injury in December. Reportedly, Anderlecht—where the attacker is on loan—stalled his return to the first team in order to reduce the wideman’s World Cup chances, and therefore the likelihood that he’d get a work permit to play back in England with Everton. Nigeria may end up being the real losers; Onyekuru demonstrated his goal threat with KAS Eupen last term, while his versatility could have made him a key asset in a tournament environment.
Anthony Nwakaeme: While Rohr has turned to two in-form forward in Simy Nwankwo and Junior Lokosa, he’s opted against Nwakaeme, whose struggles in Israel this term have ultimately counted against him. The striker was a regular squad member during the qualifiers, even if he didn’t play too much, and has the qualities to offer something a little different off the bench. Steadily, he’s begun to find his form as the World Cup approaches—having recently netted three in three—and Rohr might regret overlooking this viable Plan B.
Vincent Enyeama: We understand that Enyeama has had a season to forget at LOSC Lille, where a disagreement with the club management has apparently left him without a spot. However, he’s still turned out for Les Dogues’ reserve side, and with first-choice-elect Francis Uzoho only playing two senior games for Deportivo La Coruna all season, Rohr might not have held first-team inactivity against him. The stopper offers the experience that few could match, and with none of Nigeria’s other stoppers truly convincing, might it have been worth a punt to try and coax The Cat out of retirement?
Junior Ajayi: can count himself mighty unfortunate to have missed out on Rohr’s preliminary squad, having only received his first call-up for the March friendlies. He was one of the players affected by work permits and travel problems for those matches, and only made a brief cameo—it denied him the chance to truly prove his worth for the national side. Samson Siasia surely believes Ajayi, who’s been in fine form at African giants Al Ahly this year, should have made the cut, and it’s a mystery why Rohr opted to end the Ajayi experiment so soon.
Ademola Lookman: The allure of a World Cup represents an ideal opportunity to temp dual-nationality players to commit to one nation or another, with coaches able to offer the appeal of featuring at the grandest stage of them all. Should Rohr have not pulled out a few more stops to try and tempt more players who were raised in the Nigerian diaspora to commit to the Super Eagles. 20-year-old Lookman has enjoyed a fine loan spell in the Bundesliga—making eight decisive contributions in 11 outings for RasenBallsport Leipzig—and could have added a valuable goal threat to the squad.