COMMENT By Kunle Fayiga Follow on Twitter
The German tactician has not disappointed in the latest list announced ahead of the Super Eagles' 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier with Seychelles on September 7, 2018, with four names in Semi Ajayi, Kelechi Nwakali, Jamilu Collins and Samuel Kalu, called up for the very first time.
Big names in Elderson Echiejile, Tyronne Ebuehi, Shehu Abdullahi and captain John Mikel Obi all miss out, and there’s no Victor Moses who has called his time on his international career.
Question marks have been raised over this selection, especially with regards to Ajayi and Collins, who play in the second tier of England and Germany respectively. There are also questions about why Odion Ighalo is in the list after an underwhelming performance at the World Cup in Russia.
The inclusion of Joel Obi - who has not impressed in the green jersey since he got back into the fold - is also questioned.
All these have raised fears about the seriousness and willingness of the Super Eagles to get a result at Stade Linite in two weeks' time, something Goal ’s Solace Chukwu pointed out in the aftermath of the squad announcement.
However, the Seychelles are not a big opponent for Nigeria, and ought to be dispatched by a weakened selection, let alone the pick of Rohr's options.
They are currently ranked 188th in the world and have never gone higher than 129th in their history...that was way back in October 2006. They’ve never come close to qualifying for the Afcon or the World Cup either, and should pose very few problems.
I don't understand Gernot Rohr's rationale for inviting a third division player to the Super Eagles when quality abounds in the NPFL. The national team should not be a recycle bin.— Shina Oludare (@sportingshina) August 24, 2018
It’s said that there are no minnows in football anymore, and it can’t be quickly forgotten that the Super Eagles drew 0-0 away in Swaziland during the preliminary round of the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers in November 2015 during Sunday Oliseh's tenure.
It is for this reason that this game needs to be taken seriously, and Rohr must not get complacent, particularly considering Nigeria are already three points off the pace in their qualifying group.
This might be a competitive game, but there is need for Rohr to assess options he has at his disposal and this is the perfect match to do it in. The Franco-German coach has been criticised for not involving Nwakali after his impressive performance in the Nigeria B team’s friendly with Atletico Madrid in Uyo, but now he’s here.
Henry Onyekuru has been out injured for so long and is back to fitness at club level, but he's yet to truly prove himself at international level. Kalu has great expectations on his shoulders after replacing Malcom at Bordeaux, and now that Moses is no longer an option, it’s a chance for the former Gent wideman to seize the limelight.
The absence of right full-backs Ebuehi and Abdullahi due to injury means Ola Aina can finally get to play in his favoured position for the national team having been used in an unfamiliar left-back role in all of his involvements with the Super Eagles so far.
I think a lot of people grossly overestimate the striking options available to the Super Eagles at this time.— Solace Chukwu (@TheOddSolace) August 24, 2018
Uncomfortable truth: we may all be mad at Ighalo, but there is no pure striker we have who right now renders him irrelevant in terms of all-round skillset.
Ajayi and Collins might be unknown, but getting involved in this tie gives them a chance to see what they can do as back-ups to the regulars.
The Super Eagles are still a team in transition, and even though getting to the expanded Afcon tournament in Cameroon next summer is a top priority, there is need to test players, as Rohr is yet to identify his strongest squad.
The new additions and old faces returning is only a demonstration of the wide pool of talent the country has, not forgetting those based back home in the Nigeria Professional Football League as well.
The Seychelles match is a rare and valuable opportunity for Rohr to assess these backup options, as Libya and South Africa are much sterner foe and will demand different approaches.
This is the best opportunity to try out new faces, and Rohr will hope they can take advantage of the opportunity and put pressure on the regular faces.