The Franco-German manager has unveiled a list of 24 players ahead of the Super Eagles’ Afcon-qualifying clashes against the Squirrels and the Crocodiles but with a controversial omission
Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr, through the Nigeria Football Federation, has made public a 24-man squad list for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches against the Republic of Benin and Lesotho.
Nigeria will face Benin at the Stade Charles de Gaulle in Porto-Novo on March 27 and wrap up their schedule three days later against Lesotho at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, Lagos.
Qualification is not yet guaranteed for the three-time African champions, who need at least a point to book their ticket to Cameroon 2022.
National team regulars such as William Troost-Ekong, Wilfred Ndidi, and Alex Iwobi made the long-awaited roster that consists of three goalkeepers, eight defenders, five midfielders, and eight strikers.
Despite recent troubles with injuries, Napoli’s Victor Osimhen and Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze return to the national fold.
There is a first-time call-up for in-form Almeria striker Sadiq Umar and Enyimba goalkeeper John Noble after the shot-stopper’s exploits with the Aba Elephants on the continent and the domestic scene.
However, there is a surprise invitation as Rohr makes room for captain Ahmed Musa, despite the former Leicester City attacker being unattached since departing Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr last year.
But the biggest shock of all came with the omission of undoubtedly Nigeria’s finest striker in Europe at the moment – Paul Onuachu.
Why Rohr would place the Genk man on the standby list when the prolific forward should be the first name on the main roster beats imagination.
Onuachu has more goals than the combined haul of all the players on the 24-man list – bar, Sadiq.
With his 25 Jupiler Pro League goals, Onuachu is the best striker in Europe at this minute, second only to Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
Meaning, the 26-year-old has been better in front of the goal than Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Tottenham’s Harry Kane, and PSG’s Kylian Mbappe.
Yet, Nigeria’s German gaffer, who has never hidden his bias against Onuachu, believes the former Midtjylland ace does not merit a spot in the Super Eagles squad.
The best coaches, irrespective of their sentiments, use the best materials at their disposal to achieve collective targets.
The debate at the moment should be whether Onuachu ought to start ahead of Osimhen or not. But Rohr has made it about whether the 201cm tall forward deserves to make the team at all.
To, therefore, deny the team the services of a man at the peak of his powers does not speak well of the man-management abilities of the former Gabon coach.
Nigeria only need a point from the two remaining qualifying matches to earn the right to be a part of the party in Cameroon next year.
The team will likely pick the point up in Porto Novo on March 27, and this glaring misjudgment from Rohr would be hastily forgiven.
Any other result will see the German tactician once again come under attack from a host of former internationals who has always maintained that he is not qualified for the job he’s handling.
And most of them would be right to ask what Rohr smoked before he released this list.