Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr released the final 23-man list that will head on the plane to Russia as Nigeria’s representative at the World Cup from June 14. Rohr did not spring a major surprise, and his final selection was what many would have predicted.
Rohr cut Ola Aina and Mikel Agu from the reduced 25-man list after the friendly game against England on Saturday. The final list boasts three goalkeepers, eight defenders, six midfielders and six attackers. Rohr will likely line the team up with a 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 in the World Cup depending on the opposition.
In attack, the main strength of the Super Eagles team is pace and mobility in the front line. Ahmed Musa and Victor Moses offer direct running in the attacking zones, while Iwobi and Mikel can offer much-needed creativity to the teams attack. Odion Ighalo will constantly be a worry to defenders with his aggression and strength despite being less prolific than Kelechi Iheanacho. However, Iheanacho is skillful, good with combination plays in tight areas and takes his goal scoring chances with minimum fuss.
In the midfield, there is flexibility depending on the approach Rohr takes. The team can be very compact with the midfield three (trio) of Mikel – Onazi – Ndidi, who are essentially all defensive minded midfielders. Whereas if Rohr wants a more attacking approach he can play Iwobi, Mikel, and one of the other midfielders in the centre park.
At the defence, we have a strong centre-back pairing of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong. Kenneth Omeruo is a good cover for anyone of them with relevant World Cup experience. Bryan Idowu and Tyronne Ebuehi give the fullback position much needed depth and pace to compliment Abdullahi Shehu and Elderson Echiejile in the backline.
Finally, Deportivo de La Coruna’s 19-year-old goalkeeper – Francis Uzoho has brought hope to an otherwise grim goalkeeping situation for the National team since Carl Ikeme illness.
The weakness of the front line is the apparent lack of depth with the absence of Moses Simon due to injury. The Super Eagles also lack a consistent goal scorer and will look to get effort from all the attacking players to get the goals. Finally, there is not enough fluidity in attack from the attacking players and inability to create opportunities on their own.
Asides for Mikel Obi and Alex Iwobi in midfield, the Super Eagles have little creativity in the centre of the park. The rest of our midfielders are majorly scrappers and ball-winning ‘mids’. In a group where the teams to be faced are organised sides like Iceland and Croatia the Super Eagles are devoid of the necessary firepower.
The Super Eagles first weakness in defence are the fullbacks, they are questionable in defence and do not seem to provide a reasonable attacking threat. The centre backs are more solid but Leon Balogun’s lack of pace can cost the team dearly.
The goalkeeping situation is the most questionable weakness of the squad. All the goalkeepers are unproven at international level and for Rohr it was the case of “who is the best amongst the worst?”
To culminate the Super Eagles have the youngest squad in the tournament with Mikel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi, Ahmed Musa, Kenneth Omeruo, and Victor Moses the only players to have previous World Cup experience. Evidently, the team is filled with inexperienced players which could prove to be costly. In spite of this, there is also potential in the squad and Nigeria can spring up a surprise. The realistic expectation for the National team is a place in the Round of 16.
Super Eagles World Cup Squad
Goal Keepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Daniel Akpeyi, Francis Uzoho
Defenders: William Ekong, Leon Balogun, Kenneth Omeruo, Bryan Idowu, Chidozie Awaziem, Abdullahi Shehu, Elderson Echiejile, Tyronne Ebuehi
Midfielders: Mikel John Obi, Ogenyi Onazi, John Ogu, Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo, Joel Obi
Forwards: Odion Ighalo, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Simeon Nwankwo