The road to Qatar 2022
With World Cup qualifiers coming up later this month, Gernot Rohr had to call up a squad for the games against Liberia and Cape Verde. The Super Eagles are in charge of their group but need to win two from the remaining two games to win the group outright. Group winners will proceed to the final round of qualifiers involving 10 teams that will be paired. The winning five teams qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Nigeria’s 24-man squad in full
Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands).
Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor, Turkey); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Rangers, Scotland); William Troost-Ekong (Watford, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino, Italy); Jamilu Collins (Paderborn, Germany); Abdullahi Shehu (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Zaidu Sanusi (Porto, Portugal); Kevin Akpoguma (Hoffenheim, Germany).
Midfielders: Frank Onyeka (Brentford, England); Joe Aribo (Rangers, Scotland); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Alex Iwobi (Everton, England).
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal, Spain); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Victor Osimhen (Napoli, Italy); Moses Simon (Nantes, France); Paul Onuachu (Genk, Belgium); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Odion Ighalo (Al-Shabab Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Why is Odion Ighalo here?
One name stuck out in the list. Odion Ighalo retired in 2019 after finishing top scorer at the Africa Cup of Nations with five goals. Nigeria has one of the finest crops of strikers in world football. Victor Osimhen, Kelechi Iheanacho, Paul Onuachu, Simeon “Simy” Nwankwo, Teremas “Terem” Moffi, Emmanuel Denis, and Taiwo Awoniyi. Surprisingly, Rohr opted for Ighalo who is 32 and playing for Saudi club Al-Shabab Football Club over Taiwo Awoniyi who is 24, and leading the line for high-flying Union Berlin in the Bundesliga. Both men are in good form. Ighalo has scored 9 goals in 10 league games so far. He has scored 5 in his last 5. Awoniyi has also scored 7 in his last 9, overscoring his 3.71 xG.
23-year-old Watford striker Emmanuel Dennis has 3 goals and 3 assists in 9 EPL matches. Dennis and Awoniyi are fresher, younger, and seeing as Ighalo has done his time, it is ponderous that Rohr chose to call Ighalo up. While the starting pair of Victor Osimhen and Kelechi Seniorman Iheanacho should be able to get the job done, Awoniyi and Dennis simply look like better options to have off the bench. Why is Rohr infatuated with Ighalo? The idea that he brings experience is weak. This team needs fresh ideas. We should have moved on from Ighalo.
What has been said?
“I had a long conversation with Odion Ighalo, personally I believe we need experience in our attack to combine with our energetically youthful (Victor) Osimhen, (Paul) Onuachu, Kelechi (Iheanacho) et al. Odion’s (Ighalo) body language is very positive. We are also in touch with his agents and club,” The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Amaju Pinnick wrote on Instagram.
Ighalo is a fine player, but he has done his time with the Super Eagles. We should be focusing on new energy and not trying to restore old glory.