By Okey Onwugbonu                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                    Since
the release of the 30 man provisional squad to the World Cup in Russia by Super
Eagles’ gaffer, Gernot Rohr, stakeholders, pundits, fans and others have been
expressing divergent views about the list.                                                                                                                                                                                                             Some felt that the list should have been 35 –
the maximum allowed by World’s football governing, FIFA, to allow the inclusion
of more players.                                                                                                                                              Others argued that some notable and
deserving names were omitted from the list, mentioning names like Brown Ideye,
Austin Ejide, Efe Ambrose, Junior Ajayi, Henry Onyekuru, Anthony Nwaekeme, Dele
Alampasu amongst others.                                                                                                                                          Yet
some others opined that some names do not merit a place on the list and the
likes of Uche Agbo, Dele Ajiboye, Stephen Eze, Junior Lokosa and Simeon Nwankwo
were mentioned. Some simply gave kudos to Rohr saying he was on the right
track.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                     Rohr
had however made it clear that Nigerians should not expect too many changes to
the squad as he already knows most of players he’d take to the World Cup and
may only add a few exceptional players that would bring something different to
the table.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         And
giving 30 players an opportunity to fight for 23 slots is quite fair. After all
countries like Iceland, Brazil, Sweden, Uruguay, France and England have
already named their 23 man squad for the Mundial.                                                           
                                                                                                                                       So,
can the new players gate crash the World Cup party?                                                                
THE GATE
CRASHERS?
                                                                                                     
From
Nigeria’s first World Cup participation in USA 94, some players have always
gate crashed the World Cup party. Players that did not take part in
qualification but were sought for during the World Cup preparation to
strengthen the team, they’d only play a few friendly games and next they are on
the plane to the World Cup.
         
                                                                                                                   Out
of Gernot Rohr’s 30 man list, only Simeon Nwankwo and Junior Lokosa are first
time invitees. We can argue, though, that Lokosa is the most in form Nigerian striker
with 18 goals in 22 matches for Nigerian side Kano Pillars.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
For a team that does not have a player with a better goal ratio, Rohr was right
to give Lokosa a chance even if some argue that the level of the Nigerian Professional
Football League can’t be compared La Liga and even the Egyptian Premier League.
                                                                                                                                                                Brown
Ideye plays fairly regularly for relegated Malaga in Spain while Junior Ajayi
plays in Egypt for Al Ahly and both of them were omitted from the list.                                                                                                                                                                     But
if you check the stats, Ideye scored only once in 12 appearances for Malaga
while Ajayi netted 9 times in 32 appearances, bagging 10 assists in the 2017/18
season.                                                                                                               
The
other new boy in the team, Nwankwo is an out and out striker just like Eagles
main striker, Odion Ighalo.                                                                                                                                             Nwankwo
stands quite tall at 6ft 6 and has scored 7 goals in 22 Serie A games for his
Italian side, Crotone; obviously better stats than Ajayi and Ideye.                                                                                                                                                                               And he sort of fits the bill of Gernot
Rohr’s much sought out “battling ram” even though some can argue that Rohr
already has similar and established players like Ideye and Ajayi in Alex Iwobi,
Kelechi Iheanacho and maybe Ahmed Musa in the team and wants something
different.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Hitherto,
the Eagles do not have a like for like replacement for Ighalo and that is where
Nwankwo comes in. Would Gernot Rohr sacrifice a defender for an extra striker,
or would a more established forward player miss the party?                                                                   
Stephen
Eze and Uche Agbo have been invited previously to the team but are yet to
feature in a grade A game.                                                                                                                                             Eze
is in the squad to ruffle feathers with the central defenders following his
solid displays for CHAN Eagles though he is yet to play for the Super Eagles but
confident performance in friendly games might earn him a place in Russia.                                                                                                                                          His sojourn to Lokomotiv Plovdiv in
Bulgaria has certainly improved his rating.
Rohr
may end up picking just 7 defenders out of the 10 listed if an additional
forward is taken and the fight for defensive slot is fierce.                                                       
                                                                                                                                     Uche
Agbo of Belgium side, Standard Liege has been a regular for his club side but
has only played once for the Super Eagles, a 3-0 friendly win against Togo in
2017, although he has been in the squad 10 times.                                                                                                                                                                                                               He
can play as defensive midfielder and as a central defender, and to make the
team he must offer something different from the numerous midfielders in the
team.                                                                                                                                        
We
wait to see if any of them can gate crash the party.

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