Media Spotlight On Mikel, Uzoho, Balogun, Iheanacho
Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr seemed to have courted trouble when the provisional squad list was released with some players’ invitations questioned.
These players will be the ones who the media will ask the coaches most questions about or scrutinize their every training/match performances.
The captain, John Mikel Obi never retired from the national team after the 2018 World Cup but hasn’t played for the country since then.
Mikel’s father, Pa Michael Obi was kidnapped while the former Chelsea star represented Nigeria at the World Cup, he then moved to Championship side Middlesbrough from Chinese side Tianjin Teda and needed time to get back into shape in a very demanding league.
Francis Uzoho is clearly not a fans’ favourite no thanks to some goalkeeping gaffes and Rohr’s persistence in playing him at the expense of in-form goalkeepers. Enyimba keeper Theophilus Afelokhai who is on the standby list is even considered a better choice.
Leon Balogun is loved by the Nigerian fans who are fascinated by his Oyibo wall partnership with William Troost Ekong but the Brighton and Hove defender was never Chris Hughton’s favorite as he plumped for Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy thereby limiting the former Mainz defender to eight league and two FA Cup matches in the just ended season and so seemingly does not merit a starting place for Nigeria.
And then there is a certain Kelechi Iheanacho who is fast becoming a forgotten man in Nigerian football.
Iheanacho scored just one goal in 30 league games in the 2018/2019 season for Leicester City (21 of those matches from the bench; nine starts and subbed off six times) and still made the provisional squad at the expense of strikers like Taiwo Awoniyi, Stephen Odey, Anthony Nwakaeme and Simeon Nwankwo who scored far more.
Most fans even believe he conspired to miss a sitter against Man City which contributed in Liverpool’s failure to win the league title.