Eguavoen mirrors Rohr’s blueprint with Super Eagles AFCON list


There may have been a change in the management of Nigeria’s national football team, the Super Eagles, but the composition and tactical management look exactly the same. Coach Augustine Eguavoen has filled the squad with Europe-based players, with players from Asia and Africa – including Nigeria – taking the back seat.

The players in the 28-man list are from 14 different football leagues and dominated by players from the Premier League in England; followed by Spain, though three of the four from Spain play in the second tier. Even the South African league, the PSL, has more players on the list than the Nigerian league, NPFL. Both Daniel Akpeyi and Olisa Ndah may not see any minute of action in Cameroon, which begs the question of why more NPFL players were not included.

The leagues from which the NFF drew the squad are as diverse as possible – Nigeria, Cyprus, South Africa, Netherlands, Turkey, England, Spain, Italy, Germany, Scotland, Russia, France, Portugal, and Saudi Arabia.

After Eguavoen replaced Gernot Rohr, many Nigerian football fans may have expected a dramatic shift, especially in the squad’s composition after the NFF complained about the gross indiscipline, the lack of work ethic and the continued back-benching of players from the Nigeria Professional Football League.

Unfortunately for many, Eguavoen’s AFCON list looks exactly like a Rohr compilation. The Eguavoen list looks just like what Rohr had in the two tournaments he led Nigeria to – the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 Nations Cup.

Enyimba’s John Noble is the only Nigeria-based player, a goalkeeper, in the 28-man list. It is pertinent to note that Noble is not Enyimba’s first choice, just like Ikechukwu Ezenwa made it into Rohr’s squads despite not being the No.1 at his club.

Also, Eguavoen has wholeheartedly copied the template in naming just five midfielders in his squad. In the absence of Oghenekaro Etebo, who was the double defensive midfield pivot with Wilfred Ndidi for Rohr, Eguavoen has gone with Aribo, which means, depending on the situation and circumstances in which the Eagles find themselves-Ndidi will almost certainly play every minute of the Eagles’ AFCON participation in Cameroon.

There is no like-for-like replacement for the Leicester City man and this will play a major part in determining how the Eagles will fare when they kick off against Egypt on January 11. Only four of the 28 players have 50 or more international appearances for the team, with the defensive line-up being the most experienced.

Apart from Chidozie Awaziem, who has the legs for a race and the quickest recovery, Leon Balogun, Troost-Ekong, and Kenneth Omeruo are lacking in pace, which will mean the Eagles cannot play a high line. We have seen William Troost-Ekong backtrack into trouble in recent matches.

The attack boasts the same names – almost like the 2019 squad. Just like Rohr took Victor Osimhen along to feel the ambience of the national team, a player like Sadiq Umar is in the travelling party for the same experience.

Eguavoen has tried to solve the playmaking challenge in midfield with the inclusion of Kelechi Nwakali. Unfortunately, the Huesca midfielder has only created one scoring chance all season in the Segunda-with no assist and goal in 18 league appearances while almost everyone has given up on Alex Iwobi becoming the next Jay-Jay Okocha. Iwobi’s performances at the club level have been disappointing, and he has lost his place in Everton to 20-year-old Anthony Gordon.

The Eagles’ attack has failed to sparkle, especially in the last 12 months despite a composition of excellent goal scorers. In 11 matches, the team scored 13 goals despite playing against the likes of Liberia, Cape Verde, Benin, and the Central African Republic. In Victor Osimhen and Taiwo Awoniyi, the Eagles are blessed with two in-form strikers, but will the team give them the service to thrive and score?

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Eguavoen speaks well and does not lack confidence, and he has been saddled with an AFCON tournament in the past. His 2006 AFCON Super Eagles squad boasted both Austin Okocha and Mikel Obi, but he fell at the semi-final to Cote d’Ivoire. His last coaching job was with Sunshine Stars in 2017 and the period between then and now is a yawning chasm, which makes his choice as interim manager a gamble for the Nigeria Football Federation.

Eguavoen revealed in an interview to have been shocked at his selection; what must not come as a shock to him is the expectation of fans who are not dreaming of another golden bronze.

The 28-man Super Eagles squad to Cameroon

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (AC Omonia, Cyprus); John Noble (Enyimba FC); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor FC, Turkey); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Jamilu Collins (SC Paderborn 07, Germany); Abdullahi Shehu (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal); Olisa Ndah (Orlando Pirates, South Africa)

Midfielders: Frank Onyeka (Brentford FC, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Kelechi Nwakali (SD Huesca, Spain)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Victor Osimhen (Napoli FC, Italy); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Sadiq Umar (UD Almeria, Spain); Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin, Germany); Odion Jude Ighalo (Al-Shabab Riyadh, Saudi Arabia); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Emmanuel Dennis (Watford FC, England)

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