Nigeria trainer Gernot Rohr drafted two more home-based stars to bolster the Super Eagles for the forthcoming Total Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon 2021 qualifiers against Benin and Lesotho, following late withdrawals by some of his overseas stars.
The German coach earlier named a strong cast of 23 players, including home-based Enyimba International goalkeeper John Noble and ‘non-playing’ captain Ahmed Musa, but the team was depleted in the wake of travel restrictions by some European clubs due to the on-going COVID-19 protocols.
After replacing France-based duo of Samuel Kalu (Bordeaux) and Moses Simon (FC Nantes) respectively with Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray) and Paul Onuachu (Genk) who were initially on standby, Rohr has further brought Nigeria Professional League (NPFL) stars including Abia Warriors defender Adekunle Adeleke and Enyimba striker Anayo Iwuala, as replacements for Spain based Kenneth Omeruo and Sadiq Umar.
Currently topping qualifiers Group L with eight points, one point ahead of closest rivals Benin, the Super Eagles will be away to face the Squirrels at Stade Charles de Gaulle in Porto Novo on 27th March, before concluding their campaign three days later against visiting Lesotho Crocodiles at Teslim Balogun Stadium, in what would be their first official game in Lagos in a decade.
The last competitive game Nigeria played in Lagos was a 1-0 AFCON qualifiers’ win over Zambia in January 2001.
“We want to finish our qualification on a positive note, and the two matches against Benin and Lesotho are very important,” Rohr told CAFOnline.com.
“Of course, we know that Benin is difficult to beat after our last game in Uyo (Nigeria won 2-1) and we need at least a point against them to qualify for next year’s AFCON,” added the 67 years old coach.
“Then, we are playing our final game in Lagos. We want to win in Lagos because it has been a long time since we last played there, and we want to conclude the qualifiers with a victory as well.
“These are not going to be easy matches because Lesotho drew with Benin, but we are going to give our best against these opponents,” noted the former Bayern Munich defender.
Rohr told CAFOnline.com that the inclusion of Captain Musa - who has been without a club since last October when he left Saudi Arabian side Al Nasr - was strategic and mere morale booster to the three-time African champions.
“Musa is our captain, and he is a part of the team though he won’t play because he has not been active, but we want to assist him to train and he will also help our team as we prepare for these two important matches,” concluded Rohr.
Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (APOEL Nicosia, Cyprus); John Noble (Enyimba FC); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Defenders: Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Chidozie Awaziem (FC Boavista, Portugal); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Fulham FC, England); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal); Tyronne Ebuehi (FC Twente, The Netherlands); Adekunle Adeleke (Abia Warriors)
Midfielders: Oghenekaro Etebo (Galatasaray FC, Turkey); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Abdullahi Shehu (Omonia Nicosia, Cyprus); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Unattached); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Victor Osimhen (Napoli FC, Italy); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray FC, Turkey); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium)