Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr rues the injuries and suspension that has robbed him of four of his regulars for Saturday’s crucial 2019 AFCON qualifier against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa, but is comforted that the situation has presented opportunities for some other performers to step onto the runway.
First choice goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, wing back Abdullahi Shehu and forward Odion Ighalo – top goalscorer in the 2019 AFCON qualifying race with six goals – are not in South Africa as a resut of injury, while lion–hearted midfielder Wilfred Ndidi is suspended after cards against Seychelles and Libya.
“Yes, we have a number of injuries and one suspension. But we cannot continue to talk about that. We must look at the personnel with us now and see the situation as opportunity for them to step up and prove what they can do.
“I am happy we have a young team determined to achieve. Everyone here is good enough to represent Nigeria and they will go in there and do the job.”
Nigeria’s 23 –man squad for this game includes former U17 World Cup winners Kelechi Iheanacho, Isaac Success, Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze – who, amongst them, must step up for the main striker’s mantle in the forced absence of Ighalo.
There are also France–based Samuel Kalu (good outings away to Seychelles and at home to Libya) and Henry Onyekuru who plays in Turkey, not to mention Musa, Nigeria’s highest goalscorer ever at the FIFA World Cup.
Arsenal FC of England’s impresario Alex Iwobi knows how to find the net, as Zambia would testify, and Spain–based Moses Simon is a tricky customer on his day.
While Rohr has to deal with the absence of four regulars, Bafana Bafana Coach Stuart Baxter is not better off, as Dean Furman, Bongani Zungu, Keegan Dolly, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Bradlet Grobler and Kamohelo Mokotjo are not available.
While Percy Tau and Thulani Serero are real threats, Tokelo Rantie – who scored three of South Africa’s last five goals against Nigeria – is out of the picture having been sacked in Turkey and presently nursing a new career as a farmer.
NIGERIA’S 23 FOR BIG MATCH
Goalkeepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba FC); Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United, South Africa); Theophilus Afelokhai (Enyimba FC)
Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Adeleye Aniyikaye (FC IfeanyiUbah); Semi Ajayi (Rotherham United, England); Bryan Idowu (Lokomotiv Moscow, Russia); William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy); Leon Balogun (Brighton & Hove Albion, England); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany)
Midfielders: Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City FC, England); John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel); Mikel Agu (Vitoria Setubal FC, Portugal)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al Nasr FC, Saudi Arabia); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Moses Simon (Levante FC, Spain); Victor Osimhen (Royal Charleroi SC, Belgium); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray SK, Turkey); Alex Iwobi (Arsenal FC, England); Samuel Kalu (Bordeaux FC, France); Isaac Success (Watford FC, England); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain)
SOUTH AFRICA’S 23 FOR BIG MATCH
Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs); Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United); Darren Keet (Bidvest Wits); Ramahlwe Mphahlele (Kaizer Chiefs); Motjeka Madisha (Mamelodi Sundowns); Siyanda Xulu (Maritzburg United); Thulani Hlatshwayo (Bidvest Wits); Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates); S’Fiso Hlanti (Bidvest Wits); Lebogang Maboe (Mamelodi Sundowns); Buhle Mkhwanazi (Bidvest Wits); Thamsanqa Mkhize (Cape Town City); Vincent Pule (Orlando Pirates); Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns); Fortune Makaringa (Maritzburg United); Teboho Mokoena (SuperSport United); Samuel Mabunda (Mamelodi Sundowns); Thmebonkosi Lorch (Orlando Pirates); Thulani Serero (SBV Vitesse, Netherlands); Themba Zwani (Mamelodi Sundowns); Lebo Mothiba (Racing Club de Strasbourg, France); Dino Ndlovu (Zhejian Greentown, China); Percy Tau (Royal Union Saint, Belgium)