Is it time for Nigeria to call up Stephen Odey?

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The former MFM FC man is enjoying a fine spell of form in Switzerland, but continues to be overlooked by Gernot Rohr


COMMENT    By Kunle Fayiga     Follow on Twitter
 

Stephen Odey is a name that can’t be easily forgotten back home in Nigeria thanks his sizzling displays while plying his trade for Mountain of Fire FC in the Nigeria Professional Football League.

He was a key figure in the Olukoya Boys' promotion to the top flight in 2016, their relegation escape in their debut season, and an unforgettable second-place finish the following year.

Stephen Odey, Ifeanyi Anaemena

Odey will be remembered for scoring 18 league goals in 2017 with all eyes keen to see if he would break Mfon Udoh’s record of 23 strikes in a single season. It ultimately wasn't possible, as Swiss outfit FC Zurich came in for his services.

Initially the former MFM star struggled for game time at Letzigrund during his debut season, often making cameos, scoring three goals in 19 competitive appearances, playing a total of 581 minutes.

However, for the current campaign, Odey has seen his stock rise as he is now the focal point of the Zurich frontline, a result which has seen him net nine goals in 18 apperances in all competitions, spending 1,404 minutes so far on the pitch.

His fine recent form - he has three in his last four matches - has raised the prospect of a call-up to the Nigeria senior national team, although to date, he remains overlooked by Gernot Rohr.

Odey’s only involvement with the Super Eagles to date came in a friendly with Corsica last year where he featured alongside his former MFM teammate Sikiru Olatunbosun. He has also been involved with the B team, playing in the 2018 Africa Nations Championship qualifiers.

The present Super Eagles forward line has Odion Ighalo as the main striker, and the Changchun Yatai man has recently found redemption having scored an incredible six goals in his last three international games, including a hat-trick in the 4-0 hammering of Libya last month.

It’s encouraging to see Ighalo back to form, but what if he loses his way, or becomes unavailable for whatever reason? Who takes his place?

Odion Ighalo - Nigeria vs. Libya

The other options would be Simy Nwankwo, Kelechi Iheanacho and Henry Onyekuru, but are any particularly reliable prospects?

Simy has failed to pick up significant minutes since making his debut against the Democratic Republic of Congo in a pre-World Cup friendly, and appears not to have done enough to convince Rohr that he has something to offer.

Iheanacho continues to be a shadow of himself in recent times for the national team, and has done little to show that he's ready to lead the line.

Onyekuru had been mooted as a potential key man after starting the season strongly with Galatasaray after moving on loan from Everton. However, his form has tailed off and he's another who hasn't really been given a fair rub by Rohr.

In this context, Odey should really have been given his opportunity for this international brreak; for the revenge mission against South Africa in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers as well as a friendly with Uganda a few days later.

It's a missed opportunity for Rohr, and providing Odey's form continues, the coach mustn't make the same error in the next window - in March 2019.

Stephen Odey - Zurich

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He will have more than enough time to show his qualities over the coming months, with Zurich still actively involved in the Europa League where they top Group A ahead of Bayer Leverkusen, Ludogorets and AEK Larnaca, having claimed a maximum points in all games so far.

They are also in contention for a berth in the Champions League next season as they currently sit in third place in the Swiss Super League.

Hopefully Rohr won't live to regret overlooking the in-form frontman for the Bafana Bafana game, but it's a mistake he mustn't repeat in the future.

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