Gernot Rohr can hardly be criticised for not exploring Nigeria’s broad talent pool during his tenure, with the German coach boldly introducing numerous new stars into his Super Eagles squad.
Brian Idowu and Francis Uzoho made their debuts in the victory over Argentina and look well placed to make the squad to Russia, while the likes of Ola Aina, Tyronne Ebuehi, Henry Onyekuru and Anthony Nwakaeme could all make the plane to the World Cup after being introduced to the fold by Rohr.
Similarly, the coach hasn’t been afraid to recall some players who had previously underperformed for Nigeria or been discarded by his predecessors.
John Ogu has started the last two fixtures having previously not started a match since 2013, while Elderson Echiejile and Odion Ighalo have also won back their places in the squad after a spell out in the cold.
However, despite Rohr’s willingness to try new things, there’s been no sign of Joel Obi returning to the fold, even though the midfielder is enjoying a renaissance of sorts at Torino.
Injuries remain a concern for the 2013 Nations Cup winner, but he’s made nine Serie A appearances this term—more than he’d managed in any campaign between 2011-12 and 2016-17. He already has two goals (a career high) and two assists this term, representing more decisive contributions than at any other stage in his career.
The midfielder’s deft left foot, dribbling quality, passing class and slaloming brilliance would be valuable additions to Rohr’s current options in the heart of the park, and according to respondents of a recent Goal poll, if he’s fit, he should make his return to the fold.
Last week we asked whether Obi should be a part of Nigeria’s squad for Russia and you responded in your droves.
An overwhelming 86% of those who replied believe that the former Internazionale man should travel if he’s fit, with only 14% believing that even if he’s fit and firing, the Eagles have better options.
While Obi can take encouragement both from the faith of supporters and Rohr’s willingness to reward in-form players, he may have trouble battling the fierce competition in the squad between now and next summer.
Rohr can already call on John Obi Mikel, Ogenyi Onazi and Wilfred Ndidi as his first-choice trio, while Ogu has done enough in recent fixtures—including netting the winner against Algeria—to earn a spot.
After him, Mikel Agu appears to be a favoured option of the coach even though some portions of the fanbase remain unconvinced, while Oghenekaro Etebo’s versatility surely makes him a shoo-in for the squad and Chidiebere Nwakali was called up for the last squad meeting.
Rohr has no shortage of options, but will be take the supporters’ advice on board and plump for Obi, a player who has endured considerable injury problems during his career?