Super Eagles’ Captain, John Obi Mikel has for the second time been left out of the senior national team squad preparing for a Cameroun 2019 African Nations Cup qualifier against South Africa and a Russia 2018 World Cup eliminator against African champions, Cameroun.
Mikel was conspicuously absent in the last squad that played a friendly game against Senegal in London recently. The explanation then was that he just joined a Chinese club and needed some time to get used to his environment in the Asian country.
However, observers believe that Mikel’s continued absence may not be unconnected with Coach Gernot Rohr’s decision to blank out players plying their trade in the Chinese Super League, which is seen by many as a competition not good for anybody interested in continuing his international career.
That assumption is lent credence by the absence of Odion Ighalo and Brown Ideye in recent squads since they joined the China train.
In the 25-man squad released yesterday by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), are some of the regulars in recent times. They include Elderson Echiejile, John Ogu, Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi.
They are expected to converge in France for camping in preparation for the upcoming games against South Africa and Cameroun. An international friendly match against the Corsica senior national team later this month will form part of the build up to the matches.
The three-time African champions will open camp in Corsica on May 24 and then play against the Corsica Senior team on two days later, before moving camp to Paris, capital of France for the second phase of the camping programme.
Nigeria, unbeaten in a competitive game at senior level by South Africa since the Rainbow Nation returned to international football 25 years ago, go up against the familiar foes at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo on June 10.
Absent from the squad is first choice goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme of Wolverhampton Wanderers, which means that home–based Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Dele Alampasu are the only goalkeepers in the squad.
Chelsea youngster, Ola Aina will make his competitive debut for Nigeria in the friendly game but he has been granted permission to join the later alongside Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi due to the English FA Cup final on May 27 involving the two English clubs.
In the team are goalkeepers Ikechukwu Ezenwa (FC IfeanyiUbah) and Dele Alampasu (Cesarense FC, Portugal); defenders Leon Balogun (FSV Mainz 05, Germany); William Ekong (KAA Gent, Belgium); Uche Agbo (CF Granada, Spain); Abdullahi Shehu (Anorthosis Famagusta, Cyprus); Tyronne Ebuehi (ADO Den Haag, The Netherlands); Elderson Echiejile (Sporting Gijon, Spain); and Chidozie Awaziem (FC Porto, Portugal).
The midfielders in the squad are Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Oghenekaro Etebo (CD Feirense, Portugal); John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel); Mikel Agu (Vitoria Setubal, Portugal) and Alhassan Ibrahim (Akwa United FC).
To vie for positions in the attack are Ahmed Musa (Leicester City, England); Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City, England); Moses Simon (KAA Gent, Belgium); Stephen Odey (MFM FC); Olanrewaju Kayode (FC Austria Wien, Austria); Isaac Success (Watford FC, England); Noah Serenren-Bazee (Hannover 96, Germany); Victor Osimhen (Wolfsburg FC, Germany); and Sikiru Olatubosun (MFM FC).