COMMENT By Solace Chukwu Follow on Twitter
Gernot Rohr’s latest Super Eagles squad has prompted more groans and moans of unhappiness than usual, even if Nigeria are only set to face the Seychelles.
It’s quite hard to know which is the supporters’ biggest gripe, although there are several that catch the eye, even if Rohr can’t really be blamed for Victor Moses’s decision to call time on his international career.
The decision to opt for Jamilu Collins and Semi Ajayi despite the fact the duo spent last season in the third tiers of Germany and England respectively, for example, hasn’t gone down too well, with many questioning whether the duo have the talent to contribute to the Nigeria project.
I don’t understand Gernot Rohr’s rationale for inviting a third division player to the Super Eagles when quality abounds in the NPFL. The national team should not be a recycle bin.
— Shina Oludare (@sportingshina) August 24, 2018
Elderson Echiejile’s omission may be a nod to a Super Eagles future, but Joel Obi and, particularly, Ogenyi Onazi’s ongoing presence in the squad hasn’t gone down well.
Nor has the persistence with Odion Ighalo, whose World Cup misses against Argentina are still fresh in the memory, despite a lack of viable alternatives.
John Obi Mikel, Tyronne Ebuehi and Moses Simon’s absences due to injury, coupled with Moses’s abdication, deny the Eagles several of their key on-field talents, while the form of Kelechi Iheanacho doesn’t inspire much confidence that he can offer much as a creator or a goalscorer.
His[@ighalojude] continued inclusion has led to some backlash, but there simply is no denying the strategic importance of the China-based striker!
— Goal Nigeria (@GoalcomNigeria) August 31, 2018
Then again, it’s only Seychelles, and Nigeria don’t need to be at their best—yet—to avoid another Africa Cup of Nations absence.
Hardly is there 100% satisfaction in the team Gernot Rohr selects but the latest against a side ranked 188th in the world shouldn’t give too much worry. https://t.co/62EyAhXw3r
— Olakunle FAYIGA (@k_ef4real) August 26, 2018
However, amidst the extensive negativity, the return of Henry Onyekuru ought to boost the beleaguered Nigeria fans who still remember—all too readily—how the West Africans were eclipsed by Croatia this summer.
The 21-year-old wonderkid missed the trip to Russia after suffering a serious knee injury in December. Despite returning to training at Anderlecht in April, the Belgian giants opted not to use him again until the season’s end, and the chance to make a late impression on Rohr was lost.
As well as denying Onyekuru a spot in Russia, the injury also curtailed another promising season, fuelling the sense that people haven’t actually realised quite good the versatile wideman is yet.
After truly breaking through in the 2016-17 season with KAS Eupen, when he was top scorer with 22 goals, the youngster was signed by Everton for £7 million.
The Toffees sent him back on loan to Anderlecht, where he’d already scored nine — despite featuring in an unfamiliar left wing-back role at times — before injury struck.
It’s a sensational goal return, particularly for a player who’s found himself, at various times, adapting to a new position or club.
His fine form has continued this term, where Onyekuru, now on loan at Galatasaray, has made it two goals in his last two. His effort in the 6-0 demolition of Alanyaspor last Monday followed on from his winner over Goztepe, and he’s settled into life in Turkey—and with a Super Lig giant—seamlessly.
Of course, it’s Onyekuru’s speed, dribbling, footwork and technical quality that immediately catch the eye, but the starlet’s goalscoring is so consistent—his season with Eupen is definitely no fluke—that he must begin to be considered as a valuable asset in the final third for Nigeria.
Particularly considering the concerns about the identity of the national side’s leading goal threat, Rohr needs to find goals from elsewhere in his team, and Onyekuru offers just that.
In terms of an option in the final third, is it even too premature to say that he represents an upgrade on rather than just a replacement for Moses?!
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