Ighalo in, Awoniyi out: Rohr’s latest Super Eagles squad raises more questions than answers

Another international break means more criticism for Nigeria national team coach Gernot Rohr. This time, the German tactician is facing backlash from fans over the squad he named for the Super Eagles final two games in their 2022 World Cup qualifying group.

The three-time African champions take on Liberia in Tangiers on November 13 before hosting Cape Verde three days later at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in their final group game.

Nigeria need just a win from the two games to qualify for the final playoff round. And ahead of the two games, Rohr named a 21-man squad last week.

Like any other squad, it caused a debate. Since he took over as the team’s coach, Rohr has always caused controversy with his squad selection, but he took it to another level this time.

His latest selection raised more questions than answers. As stated earlier, Rohr named a 21-man squad for the two games, but one notable name on the list is former Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo.

Ighalo’s inclusion in the squad caused an uproar in the social media space, and rightly so. The 32-year-old retired from international football after finishing as the top scorer at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, but Rohr has always been obsessed with his return.

The German tactician has been nursing the idea of Ighalo returning to the team, and he finally invited the Al-Shabab man after speaking with him.

However, the invitation is not needed given Nigeria are currently blessed with an array of attacking talents. While it is not an anomaly for a coach to convince a retired player to come out of retirement, there was no need to hand Ighalo a recall as the Super Eagles are already well-stocked in the attacking department.

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Rohr revealed he invited the former Watford man because of his experience, but the players in the squad already have enough experience and play regularly in Europe’s top five leagues.

Also, does Rohr realise that Ighalo’s return could affect the positive mood that has been associated with his team since he was appointed?

The German tactician may have many faults, but he has always created stability in the team, which is not something past Super Eagles teams experienced.

So why is Rohr trying to tamper with that stability by inviting Ighalo? Also, what effect will it have on Victor Osimhen, the man who took over from Ighalo?

Osimhen has established himself as the undisputed striker in Nigeria’s team, but he could see Ighalo’s return as a lack of trust from Rohr.

But what makes the decision a hard pill to take is that Ighalo’s return has come at the expense of Taiwo Awoniyi, who is one of Nigeria’s best strikers in Europe’s top five leagues.

It is criminal to leave out a player who has scored 12 goals in all competitions, including seven in the German Bundesliga, for a player plying his trade in Saudi Arabia.

And it makes Rohr a hypocrite given he did not select Simy Nwankwo because he played for Crotone, even though he scored 20 league goals in Serie A last season.

Ighalo’s recall is not the only controversy in Rohr’s latest squad; the German tactician left out Rangers Calvin Bassey after inviting him for the games against the Central African Republic.

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Bassey was born in Italy to Nigerian parents but grew up in England, making him eligible to represent the three countries.

Still, Rohr did not hand him a cap in the two games against the Central African Republic, which is why it is surprising that he has been left out this time.

Also, on Sunday, he called up John Noble as a replacement for the sick Francis Uzoho. But the invitation just doesn’t make sense as Noble has not played since the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) finished in June.

And if Rohr has decided to invite him to give domestic league players a chance, then why not invite Leke James, who has usurped Noble as Enyimba’s number one goalkeeper, because after all, he is not going to play.

It is hard to satisfy everyone, but Rohr has not helped himself with his latest squad selection. But hopefully, it doesn’t come back to bite him and affect Nigeria in the two final qualifiers in Group C.