With the AFCON ticket already in the bag, it is not too early to start planning towards what is expected to be a successful outing by the Super Eagles in Cameroon in 2022. Winning Nigeria’s fourth title will be tagged a success. Finishing on the podium might be acceptable depending on how it is done but it will not excite Nigerians.
The Super Eagles play the Crocodiles of Lesotho in their last qualifying match, in what is a dead rubber but for some of the players, it should be more than that. Some of them are already playing for a spot on the 23 that will be chosen for the quest in Hayatou’s country. Barring injuries, drastic loss of forms and change in technical crew, we take a look at how the traveling party is shaping up.
On The Bus
All things being equal, the following players are already in the bus and should be ready to defend the green and white Ankara jersey in Cameroon next year.
Goalkeepers Maduka Okoye and Francis Uzoho should slug it out for the starting spot between the sticks but both of them should be in Cameroon. Okoye has become Rohr’s darling recently but he still rates Uzoho, both are young and should be in the team for long. Reminiscent of Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide being first and second choice for over a decade.
The ‘Oyinbo wall’ – William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun are still Rohr’s preferred choice, both should be in Cameroon. Chidozie Awaziem is Rohr’s Mr Utility, he should be in the team. Zaidu Sanusi seems to have tied down the left-back spot. Ola Aina’s versatility also makes him a sure choice.
Wilfred Ndidi, Joe Aribo and Oghenekaro Etebo will go as Rohr’s midfielders. The team is shot of options in this area, the aforementioned three will hardly be displaced. Alex Iwobi is one of Rohr’s trusted players, he should be in the team.
Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze are Rohr’s trusted weapons in attack, they should be in the team. Ahmed Musa is captain and should be back playing by then, he should be in the team.
At the Boarding Lounge
These ones are part of the team but they are not yet in the bus and may have a boarding ticket or may not have. They are likely to be in the team but not as sure as the first group. Their inclusion also depends on the availability of some other players and or their own forms.
One of Daniel Akpeyi and Ikechukwu Ezenwa might be the third choice goalkeeper due to their experience and familiarity with the team.
Jamilu Collins, Tyrone Ebuehi, Kenneth Omeruo, Kevin Akpoguma, Shehu Abdullahi and Semi Ajayi might battle for four or five slots as backup defenders. Ajayi and Shehu might miss out here but still make it as backup midfielders. Hence, only one of this six might miss out.
Moses Simon and Samuel Kalu are Rohr’s favorites and should make it, but it might depend on the availability of some outsiders, Henry Onyekuru is another option amongst the wing-forwards. One or two of the three might miss out. Kelechi Iheanacho and Paul Onuachu should make it as backup forwards but they can not be too sure yet. Michael Olise’s name was on the last list, albeit on standby, means something is brewing. The highly rated Reading youngster plays for France at youth level and is eligible for England. He will likely make the list if his switch to Nigeria is confirmed.
The chances of these ones are bleak but never say never, an upsurge in forms for them and a drop in form by the more likely players will open the door for them.
Sebastian Osigwe and John Noble can make the party, especially Noble, as there is a chance there is at least one home based player in the squad, especially if Ezenwa does not return to form.
Adekunle Adeleke, Bryan Idowu and Kingsley Ehizibue must hope something happens to like three or four of the regular defenders to have a chance.
Frank Onyeka could still get a chance to impress in midfield after a disappointing debut last year.
Anayo Iwuala, Peter Olayinka, Emmanuel Dennis, Josh Maja, Chidera Ejuke, Simy Nwankwo, Sadiq Umar, Cyril Dessers and Taiwo Awoniyi are waiting in the wings for a place among the forwards.
Between now and January next year, some players not available now will become available while some players will emerge from seemingly nowhere.
Ademola Lookman might make it if he switches allegiance to Nigeria on time. Ovie Ejaria might get a chance to impress before January, if he seizes it, he might be one of the midfielders.
At least one player not mentioned at all might make it, it happens. A largely unknown gatecrasher might emerge.
For some of the players, the audition begins with the game against Lesotho. It is however good that the team is spoilt for choices.