All is set for the crunch AFCON 2021 qualifier between three-time continental champions, Nigeria and West African neighbours, Benin at the Akwa Ibom Stadium in Uyo.
The Super Eagles are ready to hunt and devour the Squirrels of Benin when the two teams face each other as the race for the next edition of the African Cup of Nations begins yet again.
All 23 players invited by team coach Gernot Rohr have reported to camp for duty bar fullback Bryan Idowu who had travelling issues and whose spot has been taken up already by Enyimba’s Anaemena.
In goal, Daniel Akpeyi should get the nod ahead of Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Maduka Okoye. Regular football has only just started for Ezenwa after the resumption of the NPFL last week. Okoye, though impressive against Brazil, still needs to acclimatize with African football. Akpeyi, on the other hand, has enjoyed a fine month or two with Kaizer Chiefs and is ready to redeem himself following a near-catastrophic outing the last time he played for the Eagles. You could have used this online betting portal to predict the outcome of that game.
Nigeria Super Eagles release list of 23 players invited for Afcon qualifiers against Benin Republic which will be played at The Godswill Akpabio Int Stadium Uyo.
— Aᴋᴡᴀ Iʙᴏᴍ Fɪʀsᴛ Lᴀᴅʏ Oғ Sᴘᴏʀᴛs (@_ekemininelson) October 30, 2019
Abdullahi Shehu and Jamilu Collins are Gernot Rohr’s favourites pairings at fullbacks but Chidozie Awaziem may have just done enough at Leganes to edge ahead of Shehu, who may still be battling with fitness issues. Collins remains irreplaceable at the other flank.
At the heart of the defence, West Brom’s Semi Ajayi – in spite of his composed showings in the English Championships and the Super Eagles friendly games – will have to make way for Leganes’ experienced centre half, Kenneth Omeruo, a winner of this tournament 6 years ago.
A centre back pairing of Omeruo and vice-captain William Troost Ekong should form an impenetrable wall against Benin Republic’s attacks.
Joe Aribo’s late arrival to camp may rob him of a starting role but at some point, the Rangers man will get some playing time against the Squirrels. Vitoria Guimaraes’ Mikel Agu should be the man to replace the Gers’ star following a brilliant campaign so far for his Portuguese club.
Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi and Everton’s Alex Iwobi should complete Rohr’s preferred 3-man midfield. It might run short in creativity but not in industry and effort.
The attack is almost set in with the trio of Samuel Chukwueze, Victor Osimhen and Samuel Kalu unforgettably causing Ukraine truckloads of problems back in October.
Osimhen has been scoring goals for fun in France while the two Samuels, despite struggling for consistency in the La Liga and Ligue 1 respectively, are tricky, pacy and should complement Osimhen nicely.
Team captain Ahmed Musa may have to start the afternoon on the bench since he is just returning from a lengthy injury setback.
While any of Emmanuel Dennis or Paul Onuachu could come off the bench to help the cause depending on the flow of the match.
D Akpeyi: C Awaziem, W Troost-Ekong, K Omeruo; W Ndidi, M Agu, A Iwobi; S Chukwueze, V Osimhen, S Kalu.
Coach Gernot Rohr (4-3-3).