It’s been over nine months since Nigeria last played a game, and that was a 4-2 win over Lesotho in the second game of their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers.
They had open their qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win over the Benni Republic at Uyo four days earlier. The third and fourth round was scheduled initially for March, but it was shifted due to COVID-19.
The coronavirus outbreak caused major changes to the football calendar with Euro 2020, and Copa America delayed for a year, while AFCON 2021 has been postponed till 2022.
However, football has since returned-albeit behind closed doors. The domestic league season has been concluded while some associations have already started a new campaign.
International football returns in September with UEFA Nations League matches set to take place. The Super Eagles are not playing this window but will play two games against Cote D’Ivoire and Tunisia in October’s window.
Nigeria’s manager, Gernot Rohr, will hope to have his best legs for the two games, but that may be impossible as some clubs may be reluctant to release their players.
With the likelihood of some of Nigeria’s key stars missing out, it provides an opportunity for some players who haven’t had a call-up in a while to get one.
Soccernet.ng takes a look at some fringe players that could be in Rohr’s plans for the September games.
Simy has four caps for Nigeria and was part of the squad that went to the World Cup in 2018, which was coincidentally the last time he featured for the team.
The 28-year-old has found himself out of the team due to the quality in Super Eagles attack. However, he has played himself back into reckoning after a brilliant season saw him finish as the top scorer in the Serie B.
The lanky striker’s 20 goals helped Crotone secure a return to the Italian top-flight. His impressive season could see him back in the Super Eagles fold next month.
Nwakaeme has only one appearance for Nigeria, and that came in the dead rubber World Cup qualifier against Algeria in November 2017.
But like Simy, he also was brilliant for his club Trabzonspor. Trabzonspor finished second in the Super Liga, and it could even have been better had they not lost their form after the league resumed from the coronavirus outbreak.
Nwakaeme played a vital role in Karadeniz Fırtınası second-place finish, scoring 11 goals, and registering nine assists.
Although the competition level and his age may make it hard to feature regularly for the Super Eagles, his form last season has put him in a strong position to earn a call-up next month.
The Monaco star once revealed Rohr’s preference for sticking with the same group is the reason why he has failed to feature regularly in the team.
But aside from that, it has been a trying year for Onyekuru as he had to battle injuries and lack of game time at Monaco.
He joined Les Monégasques on a permanent deal from Everton following a title-winning campaign with Galatasaray.
But with his lack of minutes, he rejoined Galatasaray on loan, and he was afforded regular game time. Although he’s returned to Monaco, he could feature in Rohr’s plans should the regulars be unavailable.
Tyronne was also part of the Super Eagles squad that played at the 2018 World Cup. Shortly after the tournament in Russia, he moved to Benfica in the Portuguese Primera Liga.
However, he missed the whole of that season after suffering a knee injury in pre-season training. He made his return this season, but only featured for a total of 510 minutes in the Liga Pro(Portugal’s second division).
Due to his lack of game time, Ebuehi has returned to Holland where it all started for him. The Super Eagles star joined FC Twente on a season-long loan.
He has fallen in the pecking order in the national team with Ola Aina, Shehu Abdullahi and new invitee, Kingsley Ehizibue all ahead of him.
But Ebuehi’s rivals could be unavailable for the September games, and that should give him a chance to force his way back into the national team.
Uzoho looked like he was about regaining as Super Eagles first-choice goalkeeper until he suffered the disappointment of a long term injury.
The 20-year-old lost his place at the 2019 nations cup, but he was in goal in the friendlies played after the tournament.
However, he picked up a knee injury in the draw against Brazil, and it ended his season. Uzoho has now returned to full fitness and also signed for a new club, Apoel Nicosia.
The former Elche goalkeeper would likely battle Maduka Okoye, who also signed for a new club this summer, for Nigeria’s number one position.
The Super Eagles have not had a permanent number one since Rohr arrived, but the German is expected to choose either Uzoho or Okoye as the team’s first-choice goalkeeper.
October’s friendly could be the perfect opportunity for Uzoho to convince Rohr that he’s the man for the job.