When it was announced that Nigeria was going to play friendly games against Algeria and Tunisia, the news was met with excitement as fans will finally get to see the three-time African champions again.
Before the two matches, which were played in October, the Super Eagles last game was an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Lesotho in November 2019.
In a year that saw football took a backseat for over three months due to Covid-19, it was a relief to see Nigeria in action again.
While the morale was a little bit dampened due to the #Endsars movement, fans still tuned in to watch the games.
What followed, however, was a disappointing performance that did not lift the spirit of a group of people that badly needed it.
The Super Eagles were sluggish in their performance against Algeria, so it was not a surprise to see them lose by a lone goal to the current African champions.
Although they managed a 1-1 draw against Tunisia, it was just a slight improvement from the clash against Algeria.
But despite the disappointing performances from both games, it was believed the two games gave the Super Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr, a reality check.
Both games were his first since he signed an extension that keeps him in charge of Nigeria’s national team till 2022.
However, the list for Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nation qualifier against Sierra Leone this month shows the German didn’t really learn anything from the two games in October.
Rohr named a 24-man squad which featured regulars like Alex Iwobi, Leon Balogun, William Troost Ekong and Kenneth Omeruo.
Rangers star, Joe Aribo and Napoli striker, Victor Osimhen both make a return having missed the two friendly games in October.
The names listed above are expected as they are some of the experienced players in the squad. But among some of Rohr’s strange decisions is his choice of naming just four midfielders for the two encounters.
Oghenekaro Etebo, Frank Onyeka, Joe Aribo and Tyronne Ebuehi are the only midfielders in the Super Eagles squad. In fact, in reality, there are just three midfielders in the list as Ebuehi plays as a right-back, which is his natural role.
It raises the question of what was the reason behind Rohr’s decision to invite just three midfielders for two important games.
In contrast, the German called-up nine defenders and eight attackers for the clash. Also, it was a surprise to see Paul Onuachu left out of the squad given he is Nigeria’s top scorer in Europe this season.
It is well-documented that the former Bordeaux manager is not a fan of Onuachu’s style. Still, the striker’s attacking threat is valuable and also offers something different from the attackers that Rohr called-up.
Onuachu received criticism for his performance against Algeria, but that’s down to the tactics employed by Rohr in the encounter.
It’s common knowledge that the former Midtjylland star operates from the box, but he had to drop deep to receive balls, and that limited his play.
Rohr has previously stated that the 26-year-old would have to adapt to the team’s style, but even when Onuachu is not playing, it is hard to define Nigeria’s style.
While Onuachu may not be Rohr’s type of player, Bordeaux striker, Josh Maja, fits into the German tactician’s model. However, Maja has consistently been snubbed by Rohr, which poses another question.
Swiss-born goalkeeper, Sebastian Osigwe, is the only new player in the squad. Rohr handling him a call-up is a good one, but it appears he only decided to send the FC Lugano shot-stopper an invitation following pressure from fans.
After all, Osigwe could’ve been invited for the October friendly games, which took place in Austria. The 26-year-old could still miss the AFCON qualifier though, having tested positive for Covid-19.
Nonetheless, despite the questionable choice of players from Rohr, Nigeria should have no difficulty in seeing off the challenge of their West African rivals.
But Rohr can’t afford to keep selecting players that can’t justify their place in the team. The World Cup qualifiers kick off next year, and the German must get his selection right if he wants to lead Nigeria to a second successive World Cup.