NIGERIA’S WORLD CUP SQUAD: WHO’S IN, WHO’S OUT?

NIGERIA’S WORLD CUP SQUAD: WHO’S IN, WHO’S OUT?

After Nigeria’s 1-1 draw with the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, KweséESPN run the rule over the Super Eagles’ likely World Cup squad.

Goalkeepers: For a third game in a row, Francis Uzoho started in goal, earning his fourth Nigeria cap.

The Deportivo La Coruna shot stopper looked assured, which was an improvement on his performance in the March friendlies.

Based on the Eagles’ line-up in the last three friendlies, Uzoho looks to have earned the nod and trust of the coaching crew to be the starting goalkeeper at the World Cup.

Who plays backup? Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Daniel Akpeyi, barring any last-minute injuries, should make the team to Russia.

The pair have earned consistent invites over the last two years under Gernot Rohr, and their experience should also count for something.

Who misses out? Dele Ajiboye, an excellent goalkeeper on his day, will likely get the chop.

Despite an eye-catching performance against Sudan in the semi final of the African Nations Championship, his inability to upstage Ezenwa as the home-based Eagles’ number one might ultimately have cost him.

Francis Uzoho of Nigeria EPA/Maciej Kulczynski POLAND OUT

Francis Uzoho of Nigeria EPA/Maciej Kulczynski POLAND OUT

Defenders: One of the easier selections to make based on the team’s line-up in recent games. Rohr appears to want two specialists for each position, so Nigeria are likely to take eight defenders to Russia.

The usual suspects Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Shehu Abdullahi and

Elderson Echiejile realistically appear set to be Nigeria’s starting defence against Croatia.

Kenneth Omeruo, who has being in good form with Kasimpasa, came off the bench against the DRC and he still awaits his first international start since March 2017.

Like Joseph Yobo four years ago, Omeruo’s spot in the squad isn’t secure, but his international experience should see him on the plane, particularly considering that Balogun is prone to injury.

Chidozie Awaziem, Brian Idowu and Tyronne Ebuehi should complete the defensive unit.

The new Benfica right-back, in particular, has gradually come into his element, impressively settling down in the international setup.

Hopefully, Ebuehi should shake off the cramp which led to his substitution against Congo and feature in his first World Cup.

Who misses out? Stephen Eze, who was a late call-up to the team, should miss out, and hasn’t yet featured under Rohr.

Ola Aina didn’t help his case for an inclusion in the World Cup party on Monday. The Chelsea man was unnecessarily casual on the day, careless in possession, and gave away a needless foul which resulted in a penalty.

Could he have lost out to Idowu, who is more business-like in his approach and also offers versatility?

Wilfred Ndidi of Nigeria, Serbia's Filip Kostic Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Wilfred Ndidi of Nigeria, Serbia’s Filip Kostic Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Midfielders: Captain John Obi Mikel is a certainty, and the Tianjin TEDA man should be joined by vice-captain Ogenyi Onazi, Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo, John Ogu, Joel Obi and Mikel Agu.

However, Obi and Agu might find themselves competing for a final spot, depending on how many forwards Rohr wants to take to Russia.

Who misses out? For whatever reason, Uche Agbo is yet to add to his solitary international cap earned against Togo 11 months ago, despite being in the team consistently since October 2016.

Forwards: Odion Ighalo, Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa are comfortably the men expected to lead the goalcharge in Russia.

New boys Simy Nwankwo and Junior Lokosa both had impressive debuts against Congo, and might not necessarily be in direct competition for a single spot, due to their individual qualities.

The Crotone man appeared to have sealed his place in the final 23 as he stands out with his unique playing style, while Rohr’s decision to play Lokosa in a wide role suggests that he could be a contender to replace the injured Moses Simon.

Who misses out? Simon would have been in contention for a starting role had he been fit, but injury has denied him the chance to appear in a maiden major tournament.

Dami Ugbane, KweséESPN

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Nigerians in South Africa
Nigerians in South Africa 1585 posts

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