By Victor Okoye/ Ijeoma Okigbo
Mixed reactions on Monday trailed Super Eagles’ Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr’s 30-man provisional list for the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup finals.
Coach Rohr’s Provisional squad was released by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on Monday.
Rohr named Captain Mikel Obi, goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa, defenders Abdullahi Shehu, Elderson Echiejile and Leon Balogun in the provisional list.
Others are midfielders Ogenyi Onazi, Oghenekaro Etebo, forwards Ahmed Musa and Victor Moses.
The list also includes Spain-based goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, defenders William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo and Olaoluwa Aina, midfielders Wilfred Ndidi, Joel Obi and John Ogu as well as forwards Kelechi Iheanacho, Moses Simon and Alex Iwobi.
Chelsea wingback Moses was Nigeria’s top scorer in the qualifying campaign with three goals, while Captain Mikel, Iwobi, Simon and Iheanacho weighed in with two goals each.
A cross section of football enthusiasts who spoke to NAN noted that there was nothing really new about the list, while others expressed doubts about the goalkeeping and defence departments.
Nduka Ugbade, an ex-international and former assistant coach of the Nigeria under-17 national football team said he was satisfied with Coach Rohr’s selection.
“I think the list is made up of the usual suspects and these are the players that we should indeed be taking to the World Cup.
“Looking at our options upfront, I think the likes of Ighalo, Moses and Iheanacho should be able to keep their jerseys barring any injury worries.
“I am also so thrilled to see Lokosa’s name on that 30-man provisional list. He truly deserves it especially having scored 18 goals in 20 games for Kano Pillars in the NPFL so far this season.
“I think he needs to be encouraged and let’s see how far he can go in competing for a shirt and it will be a major surprise if the young man makes it to the World Cup.
“However, even if he does not make it to Russia, the experience in the Super Eagles camp and training will be very good for his growth and development,” he said.
Emmanuel Babayaro, former Super Eagles goalkeeper and Atlanta ’96 Olympic gold medalist, also noted that the names were purely based on merit, adding that Junior Lokosa’s call up was the biggest surprise in the list.
“I think the list is okay. Seriously looking forward to see if we can finally break that last 16 hurdle and get to the quarters for the very first time.
“I think this is long over due and hopefully Russia is where history will be made.
“I am delighted that at least three home-based players namely; Dele Ajiboye, Junior Lokosa and Ikechukwu Ezenwa made the provisional list and my guts tells me Lokosa will make the 23-man final list.
“He is the surprise package for me.
“The goalkeepers however need to train thrice harder and work more on their confidence. I tip Uzoho for first choice,” he said.
Godwin Bamigboye, the Chairman, FCT Football Coaches Association said the inclusion of the country’s biggest goal contributors in the list was a welcome development.
“There were really no major surprises in the list as the country’s biggest goal contributors namely; Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses and Kelechi Iheanacho are destined for Russia.
“Also, the partnership of the China-based players namely; Odion Ighalo and Mikel Obi will yield a lot of goals for the Super Eagles. I can’t wait for the tournament to start already.
“My advice however to those whose names were missing is that they must dig their heels in, do better than their previous best and make it impossible for the Coach to overlook them for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2019,” he said.
Emmanuel Amakiri, the proprietor of Amakson Football Academy said he wasn’t completely satisfied with the list, adding that the goalkeeping and defence departments still looked weak.
“For me, the list is not bad, but I feel our goalkeeping and defence department are weak and how Rohr sets up the midfield will be crucial.
“I still don’t know what Ezenwa and Echiejile are doing in that squad? They better not make the final list.
“Ezenwa isn’t the best goalkeeper in the NPFL so I am wondering what informed his selection.
“So sad for the likes of Brown Ideye and Henry Onyekuru whose names were omitted from the list as they have both struggled in their efforts to get back to fitness ahead of the World Cup.
“Some however discovered their form when it mattered most, such as Kelechi Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa who had to go back to Russia to begin to command attention once again,” he said.
The Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup finals is scheduled to kickoff from June 14 to July 15.
The Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL)/leading top scorer Junior Lokosa and Simeon Nwankwo are the new faces that graced the 30 man provisional list.
Kano Pillars forward Lokosa, recording 18 goals as at Match day 21, is getting his first call up as well as Crotone of Italy striker Nwankwo.
Leon Balogun, Wilfred Ndidi, Etebo Oghenekaro, Joel Obi and Tyrone Ebuehi who are recuperating from injury also made the list.
The team is scheduled to take on DR Congo on May 28, before moving out to England to take on Three Lions in Wembley stadium on June 2 and Czech Republic on June 6.
William Troost- Ekong