In a forward-heavy 31-man squad, will the German tactician leave out the big names to try out a different approach?
A lot has been made of Gernot Rohr’s provisional 31-player Nigeria squad to face Cameroon in the off-season, with the majority of Nigerians largely praising the inclusion of Crotone frontman Simy Nwankwo after a three-year absence.
While the imposing striker’s place may not be set in stone, having him in the group at the very least represents some progress after the German’s bizarre statements in late April.
“I have never forgotten about [Simy] and have always observed him, not just now that he is doing so well,” Rohr told Europa Calcio. “However, the competition is huge, so it is very difficult to be part of the Nigeria attack, we have very good players.
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“As I said before, I have never stopped following his performances, but I believe that next year he must go and play in a club and in a team that is stronger than Crotone,” he added. “It will not be equally easy, but he would already have a better chance of returning to the national team.”
The 67-year-old’s remarks were branded “ridiculous” and unsurprisingly so.
Goal, by and large, agreed with the absurdity of the German’s comments owing to Paul Onuachu playing outside Europe’s major leagues, Terem Moffi featuring for a relegation-threatened side and Umar Sadiq plying his trade in the Spanish second division.
Wrote this on Rohr’s assessment of Simy, which highlights bizarre inconsistencies in the German’s evaluation…https://t.co/6KUqu1pF6p
— Seye Omidiora (@theReal_SeyE) May 6, 2021
There was always going to be a huge decision to make for Nigeria’s next fixture, especially with the attackers, with a plethora of options to choose from in an uplifting campaign for the nation’s frontmen.
However, Rohr simply threw everyone into the fold for Cameroon rather than being decisive with his attacking picks.
Admittedly, maybe this shouldn’t be a criticism of the experienced manager due to the choices available all playing amazingly for their clubs at present.
Having said that, June’s clash vs the Indomitable Lions may be a perfect opportunity for the boss to deviate from what’s expected after cutting eight players from the initial group.
It may be a game vs the Super Eagles’ age-old rivals from the 2000s, but it has little or nothing riding on it in truth.
Of course, Rohr will require tactful communication to convince players like Victor Osimhen and Kelechi Iheanacho why leaving them out against the Central African nation is necessary. Not only can the game be an attempt to integrate new players into the squad, but it also grants the aforementioned frontmen a longer period of rest over the summer.
While some supporters may have reservations about attempting something rather left-field two months before the start of Nigeria’s World Cup qualifying campaign, going with the tried and tested defeats the entire purpose of a friendly match.
Truthfully, with due respect to Liberia and Cape Verde, a tweak in approach to rest personnel for a non-competitive encounter with Cameroon should never be blamed for dropped points in the opening games of the qualifiers.
Such a notion will be downright dismissed.
Nevertheless, going by Rohr’s five-year history in the national team, he’s unlikely to make as many tweaks as hoped for and instead settle on players he trusts when the squad is eventually reduced. While nobody has a crystal ball, there’s a likelihood that not all of Simy, Terem Moffi and Sadiq will make the final cut.
Frankly, this would be a disappointment for the trio because June’s friendly may be the last time in a while they stand a chance to make a case for regular inclusion as the German tactician is likely to rely on a select unit to navigate a group containing Liberia, Cape Verde and the Central African Republic.
While 13 attackers caught the eye, the dearth of central midfielders continues to befuddle, Wilfred Ndidi and Oghenekaro Etebo aside.
Joe Aribo is, frankly, wasted in a two-man midfield, Abdullahi Shehu’s best work has come at right-back while Feirense’s Abraham Marcus, listed as a midfielder, is actually a wide attacker by trade.
Nothing stands out in defence besides Leon Balogun’s absence, but the centre-back’s omission was expected having injured his calf/Achilles in early April. The defender hasn’t featured in any competitive game since the Super Eagles’ 3-0 success over Lesotho in late March.
With little changes at the back and the continued midfield imbalance, the major story was the inclusion of 13 forwards in Nigeria’s latest squad. It’ll be interesting to see who makes the final 23-man group to play Cameroon in Austria.