Gernor Rohr has secured Nigeria's return to the World Cup after successfully negotiating the Group of Death, but now his attention must turn to the identities of the 23 men who will join him in Russia.
The German tactician has been able to achieve qualification with a talented squad at his disposal, and he deserves credit for his ability to bring out the best in his players. However, one talent who's not yet been successfully integrated by the former Burkina Faso boss is Henry Onyekuru.
The 20-year made his international debut in the 3-0 friendly victory over Togo back in June but has not featured since.
Onyekuru continues to shine in the Belgian First Division, having made his breakthrough with KAS Eupen last season – where he scored 22 goals to finish as joint top scorer. Now with reigning champions Anderlecht, on loan from Everton, the Aspire Academy graduate has registered seven goals in 14 overall apperances.
Despite losing to French heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain in the Uefa Champions League on Tuesday night, the Onitsha-born winger put in a fine display for the Purple & Whites, missing three chances to get his name on the scoresheet. He was a consistent menace on the left flank, causing problems for Dani Alves with his pace, movement and trickery.
Everton boss Ronald Koeman will surely be wishing he had Onyekuru in his squad as the Toffees continue to struggle even after investing heavily on players in the summer.
Onyekuru cost the Toffees just £7 million, but was unable to move to Goodison Park after failing to get a work permit. The Nigerian is hoping he can get that problem sorted by January and Koeman would surely be more than glad to have him as he continues to sweat on his side’s goalscoring problems.
Thanks to everyone that came to support us. Very tough game and we are disappointed with the result. I feel blessed to be apart of tonight pic.twitter.com/Wk5W6YI2YO— Henry Onyekuru (@henryconyekuru) October 18, 2017
A Goal poll was conducted back in September on whether Onyekuru should be taken to the World Cup if the Super Eagles qualified for the global showpiece. A staggering 72% of respondents wanted to see him in Russia and now that qualification has been achieved, Rohr really needs to involve the wideman more.
The 64-year old must assemble his strongest available squad for the dead rubber against Algeria next month, a 2019 Afcon qualifier against Seychelles next March and other friendlies to get the three-time African champions in good shape for the Mundial still to come.
Onyekuru’s effectiveness on the flanks means he can provide competition to Victor Moses and Alex Iwobi, who have been the mainstays in wide areas for Rohr.
The 20-year old’s knack for scoring goals also means he can offer support for the forwards like Kelechi Iheanacho and Odion Ighalo, who haven’t shown enough consistency in recent months.
By contrast, Onyekuru is proving that he is no flash in the pan, he is consistent, and that he has the tools to make the Super Eagles excel.
Rohr has been keen on building a team for the future around the few experienced faces, and Onyekuru has demonstrated that he must be a key figure in Nigeria's ongoing rebuild.