Nigeria Super Eagles gaffer Augustine Eguavoen has on Friday released a 25-man shortlist including five standby players for the crunch World Cup qualifying tie against the Black Stars of Ghana.
The double-header tie is scheduled to take place later this month with the first leg to be played in Ghana and the return leg in Abuja, Nigeria.
Some players who represented Nigeria in the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon have missed out on the list and here are the reasons.
LifeFromNaija takes a dig into the issues responsible for their non-inclusion.
A 24-year old former Gombe United winger Chidera Ejuke was a delight to watch in the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon after making a few substitute appearances.
The youngster plays for CSKA Moscow in the Russian top flight and the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war has hampered the league in those two Nations.
Ejuke alongside his club teammates have not been playing football for the past days due to the war and it appears it will continue so until the Super Eagles camp is open later this month.
The camp will be opened on 21st March and as such it will be a sin to invite someone who is not playing to be a part of the team.
The Everton midfielder has been a regular to his club side since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
But he is due to missing the crunch tie between Nigeria and Ghana which is a World Cup decider.
Iwobi was sent off in Nigeria’s last outing against Tunisia in the Round of 16 of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and must miss a match before he can play.
It is worthy to note that even with his absence from the squad he is yet to serve his punishment.
It is a tactical approach to drop Iwobi and invite players who may be eligible to compete as the clash against Ghana is not worth any gamble.
Now, after the qualifiers and probably Nigeria qualifies to the World Cup in Qatar, Iwobi may be invited to any CAF-approved match and then he will miss the match and serve his suspension.
The Enyimba goalkeeper was the only player from the Nigeria Professional football league (NPFL) to represent the country in the 2021 AFCON, but the shot-stopper has been excluded from the squad.
Three goalkeepers are already in the side and it is just a two-headed tie, it is safer to go with more outfield players than go with more goalkeepers which it is well known that only one or two will likely feature.
Awoniyi’s exclusion should be self-explanatory too as he was a replacement for Victor Osimhen who was absent due to contacting COVID-19 days before Nigeria’s departure to Cameroon.
With the availability of more experienced Osimhen and Odion Ighalo, Awoniyi takes his place on the standby list.
Olisa Ndah, Tyronne Ebuehi, Chigozie Awaziem And Jamilu Collins
The Super Eagles released list has seen the number of defenders reduced from nine that went to the AFCON to eight.
And with the return of Leon Balogun, Calvin Bassey, and Shehu Abdullahi, it is understandable that some players need to be dropped to have some presence of more experience in the squad.
This brought about dropping the four defenders in Ndah, Collins, Ebuehi, and Awaziem.
The return to fitness of established members of the squad Oghenekaro Etebo will certainly hamper the inclusion of Nwakali.
It will be sacrilegious to drop Etebo for Nwakali knowing too well the contribution of the Watford midfielder to the Super Eagles over Nwakali who is struggling to convince Nigerians of his talent.
Peter Olayinka And Henry Onyekuru
Similar to Awoniyi’s case, the return of more experienced strikers in the side has trimmed the inclusion of some members of the AFCON squad.
The return of Osimhen and Ighalo including Emmanuel Dennis and Ademola Lookman have also contributed to their exclusion and it cannot be done otherwise.
Nigeria travel first to Ghana before the second leg in Abuja and whoever comes out top after both legs will represent Africa in Qatar come summer 2022.
Full List of Invitees
Goalkeepers: Maduka Okoye, Francis Uzohu, Daniel Akpeyi
Defenders: William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo, Leon Balogun, Ola Aina, Semi Ajayi, Calvin Bassey’ Zaidu Sanusi, Shehu Abdullahi
Midfielders: Wilfred Ndidi, Joe Aribo, Frank OnyekaOghenekaro Etebo, Akinkunmi Amoo
Forwards: Ahmed Musa, Moses Simon, Samuel Chukweze, Victor Osimhen, Odion Ighalo, Sadiq Umar, Kelechi Iheanacho, Emmanuel Dennis, Ademola Lookman