Dissecting The Super Eagles 24-man Squad For AFCON Qualifiers Against Sierra Leone

Coach Gernot Rohr has picked 24 players for the Super Eagles first competitive match for 2020. No thanks to cornonavirus, the last time the Super Eagles played a competitive match was November 2019. With and Without due and undue respect to Sierra Leone, the Super Eagles should be making light work of the double-header. The team should all but come out of the fixtures with a ticket to the Africa Cup of Nations, whenever and wherever it holds, Cameroon 2022 for now.

The Chose 24

For the purpose of what the team will look like going to the AFCON and World Cup qualifiers due to begin next year, we take a look at the chosen 24. Note, there may still be substitutions depending on availability and injuries.

Goalkeepers

Daniel Akpeyi returns, he is joined by Maduka Okoye and Sebastian Okoye, who is called up for the first time. Only Okoye survives from the four goalkeepers in camp for the last friendlies. He was in goal in the two friendlies against Algeria and Tunisia, and he was impressive. It won’t be surprising if he keeps his place against Sierra Leone.

Akpeyi always finds a way back in the team, he was in goal for the first two AFCON qualifiers, after he had earlier been dropped after the 2019 AFCON. The most experienced goalkeeper in the team could also be in line for a start.

Sebastian Osigwe gets his first invite after some strings of impressive performances with Lugano in the Swiss League. He may not get the chance to be in goal in the matches, he could do enough in training to earn future call-ups.

DEFENCE

The teams seems to be spoiled for option in defence. William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun, Kenneth Omeruo, Chidozie Awaziem, Semi Ajayi, Kelvin Akpoguma are the center-backs. Troost-Ekong and Balogun are expected to start at the haert of the defence, considering Troost-Ekong’s consistency and Balogun’s performance in the last friendlies. The likes of Ajayi, Akpoguma and Awaziem may have to feature elsewhere to get any playing time.

Rohr has lots of defenders.

Zaidu Sanusi might keep Jamilu Collins on the bench again at left-back, after the Porto defender impressed in the last friendlies.

Tyronne Ebuehi is listed as a midfielder, but he should be vying to start at right-back ahead of Ola Aina, Awaziem and Akpoguma. Ebuehi is expected to start to add more to the attack.

MIDFIELD

The team looks light in midfield and the midfield seems to pick itself. Joe Aribo and Oghenekaro Etebo should form the midfield pivot, playing together for the first time. Rohr could play Ajayi in midfield again, alongside one of the two but it is unlikely. Alexander Iwobi seems to have tied down the spot as the attacking midfielder.

Frank Onyeka is the other midfielder in the team but he was disappointing in the last friendly. The Midjtyland midfielder has gotten another chance due to Wilfred Ndidi’s absence and must take any chance he gets with both hands.

FORWARDS

The team is also spoiled for choices in attack. Victor Osimhen should start as center-forward with Kelechi Iheanacho playing back-up.

The team is top heavy.

Only two of Samuel Chukwueze, Ahmed Musa, Chidera Ejuke, Emmanuel Dennis and Moses Simon will start. It will likely be Chukwueze on the right and Simon on the left. Ejuke showed a glimpse of quality in the few minutes he played in the last friendly match and could get get a chance to impress. Dennis has also not gotten many chances and will be lucky to get one this time. Musa is presently in the team despite being unattached probably because he is the captain, he might be called up if it gets tricky and his pace and experience is needed.

No matter who plays, as stated earlier, the matches are auditions for a place in the team. Considering some other players are warming up to get into the team, there is little margin for error

Four Things To Look Forward To In The Super Eagles vs Algeria Friendly

It seems like forever since we last saw the Super Eagles play, no thanks to coronavirus. It has made the Super Eagles double-header friendlies against The Desert Foxes of Algeria and The Carthage Eagles of Tunisia all the more important. Interestingly, these two were the Super Eagles last opponents at the last African Cup of Nations. A defeat against Algeria in the Semi-final meant the Eagles had to meet Tunisia in the third-place match, which they never lose, from generation to generations.

The Eagles are back.

Coah Gernot Rohr has played down trying to revenge the AFCON defeat against the Algerians. However, there are some interesting plots to looking forward to in the match.

Maduka with questions to answer

We have what is basically a new set of goalkeepers. Matthew Yakubu is new, Maduka Okoye has only made one substitute appearance, same as the returning Dele Alampasu. Tobias Lawal is also new but may not take part due to eligibility issues.

Whoever man the post for the Super Eagles will be making his first start. It will likely be Okoye, going by Rohr’s hints at his media conference yesterday. Okoye is also the most stable in the present team.

Maduka has a lot to prove.

Questions have been raised about Okoye’s place in the team in the past, now he has the chance to show what he is capable of. Standing at 6ft 6 inches, he has a very good height for a goalkeeper. The Super Eagles have not had a stable number one for some time, Okoye could start laying claims to it ahead of the expected returns of Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Daniel Akpeyi and Francis Uzoho. Considering that Akpeyi and Ezenwa are already on the other side of 30, Maduka has the chance to displace Uzoho as the future.

A new Oyinbo wall in the offing

Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong built a strong partnership going into the 2018 World Cup. They were subsequently tagged the Oyinbo wall. Majorly due to injury and fitness issues, Balogun has not been regular lately. Troost-Ekong has remained consistent and has had to pair Kenneth Omeruo and Semi Ajayi at different times.

The coming of Kelvin Akpoguma means the status quo might be altered. Though Akpoguma is untested yet, he comes with huge reputation. Playing with Hoffenheim in the German Bundesliga, in terms of the league and the club he plays for, he ranks above the other defenders in the team.

Akpoguma (middle) with Balogun (L) and Dessers (R)

It is likely it will become Akpoguma plus someone else at the heart of the defence very soon, most likely a new Oyinbo wall.

Rohr’s midfield altered

If there is one area that Rohr hardly touches in his team, it is the base of his midfield. Wilfred Ndidi and Oghenekaro Etebo are his most consistent partnership there. In Etebo’s absence in recent times, he has had to partner Ndidi with Joe Aribo, who performed excellently.

While we were still waiting for what will happen when Etebo returns, the trio became unavailable due to injuries. It means Rohr has to play a new set of midfielders.

Mikel Agu, Frank Onyeka and Samson Tijani are the options in camp. Agu is returning to the team, he is one player Rohr fancies but we have not seen much of him yet. He is expected to partner new boy Midtylland’s Frank Onyeka. 18-year-old Samson Tijani is the other option, not much is expected of him yet. With Ndidi, Etebo and Aribo expected to return, the present midfielders may be playing for one slot. It will be nice to see how the new midfield performs.

The battle for Osimhen’s deputy

Victor Osimhen is the Super Eagles undisputed number 9 right now. He is not available due to COVID 19 regulations. Paul Onuachu has been called up to replace him. Since scoring that stunner against Egypt in a friendly post 2019 AFCON, Onuachu has not been impressive for the Super Eagles. He has however been in good form for his club KRC Genk. He has the chance to prove to Rohr that his massive frame is needed in the Super Eagles.

6ft 7 Onuachu has a point to prove.
6ft 7 Onuachu has a point to prove

Onuachu’s club teammate, Cyril Dessers is expected to make his debut. Not much is known about him than he was the Eredivisie top scorer last season. He has to prove he can be trusted to be Osimhen’s deputy or competitor when called upon.

There’s also the matter of Kelechi Iheanacho, who is more of a forward these days. He has to win Rohr’s trust back, he has not scored for the Super Eagles since 2017.

In all, the friendly match will be one to enjoy. The Algerians have never been easy opponents and are not expected to be but we are expecting a good performance from the Super Eagles.

Written by Tomiwa Ojo @10qmedia on Twitter.

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