By Babatunde Alao:
With just two weeks to the crucial double header 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Cameroon, Nigeria’s coach Gernot Rohr will be having sleepless nights and faces great dilemma about who should man the post as well as lead the Super Eagles’s attack against the Indomitable Lions.
Rohr and the Nigeria Football Federation have taken a definite step to sort out the goalkeeping problem occasioned by the unavailability of ailing Carl Ikeme, who is battling acute leukaemia, by contracting another goalkeepers’ trainer, Enrico Pionetti (an Italian) to supervise or work with Aloy Agu.
Whether or not that action smacks of undermining Agu is a subject for another day.
Sources close to the team also indicated that Rohr is ready to jettison the idea of recalling Vincent Enyeama while the likes of Dele Aiyenugba, Austin Ejide may be considered for shock recall ahead of home-boy Ikechukwu Ezenwa after Daniel Akpeyi has failed to impress, while Dele Alampasu is considered too young and not ready for such a high-profile games.
Media reports recently had it that a top official of the team admitted that Rohr is worried about the Eagles attack and even though striker Kelechi Iheanacho had finally moved from Manchester City to Leicester City, that has done very little to calm the nerves of Rohr considering Iheanacho’s performance against South Africa in June as well as the fact that he did not enjoy a decent pre-season while trying to sort out his transfer to his new club and it will also take time for him to settle down at the King Power Stadium.
Desperation is therefore setting in for the strikers’ position as Rohr is reportedly considering the possibility of recalling Odion Ighalo and old warhorse Obafemi Martins for the Cameroon game.
Rohr is believed to be placing great emphasis on physically endowed strikers with experience and strength. Such qualities, it is argued, are needed for the Eagles to break down the Lions who are well kmown for their highly physical and robust approach.
On the other hand, Rohr is also said to be considering going for skillful strikers with guile and trickery. Either way, it leaves Rohr in great dilemma as Nigeria is not short of strikers on both sides of the divide.
For experience and strength, strikers like Ighalo, Martins, Isaac Success, Anthony Nwakaeme (surprisingly the only striker here who is yet to earn Eagles call-up despite his superlative showing for back-to-back Israeli Ligat Haal champions Hapoel Beer Sheva in the last two seasons), Noah Bazee, Brown Ideye, Emmanuel Emenike and Aaron Samuel fit the bill. For strikers with guile and trickery, Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi, Kayode Olanrewaju, Imoh Ezekiel, Henry Onyekuru, Victor Osimhen, Taiwo Awoniyi are good candidates. Home boys Stephen Odey and Anthony Okpotu can also make up the numbers. It is left for Rohr to make his choice from any of the groups or pick from both.
With Rohr set to name his list anytime from now, what is most important is for the coach to place the greatest emphasis on the current form of these strikers before making his pick. That is solely his call and Nigerians can only pray that he gets it right.