Saturday 8 June 2019

/ by Colin Udoh

On Saturday, Gernot Rohr will lead his Super Eagles team out against Zimbabwe in the first of two friendly games before the Nations Cup.
While the game will be largely preparatory, it affords the German a first opportunity to look at the bulk of his squad and also confirm the decision of which player to drop before CAF’s June 11 deadline.
What exactly will the coach be looking for 

Captain John Mikel Obi has been out of the squad since the World Cup in 2018. That would be nearly 11 months since he last kicked a ball in the green and white strip.
In his absence, the team have qualified for the Nations Cup with a game to spare, but he still remains a vital piece of the puzzle, both for his status and the control he brings to the midfield and team as a whole.
Mikel starting is a no-brainer. But Rohr will be keeping an eye on him to see how seamlessly he re-integrates himself into the side. 
Mikel has looked good on training, moving economically, releasing the ball quickly and linking up well with teammates as he works his way back to some rhythm.
Don’t expect him to last the 90 minutes though. Rohr will be looking to manage his captain’s minutes and exposure to injury.

There are essentially two spots where Rohr has said he will be looking to make cuts, in midfield and attack.
Upfront, the battle for the second striker’s spot to join Odion Ighalo is between Paul Onuachu and Victor Osimhen. Both players will be making their final cases for inclusion. Onuachu currently holds a big edge over his younger rival, and Osimhen would need to play out if his skin to dislodge him.
Kelechi Iheanacho might also get minutes, but it may be academically as he looks a strong candidate for the chop after dwindled production at both Leicester and Nigeria.
Outside of that p, Rohr will also want to see some cohesion from his core team with only one other game before the Nations Cup kicks off.

At Thursday’s press conference, Rohr told reporters he had not made up his mind about who will Be first choice goalkeeper at Afcon.
This suggests that at least two goalies will have be under observation against Zimbabwe. 
Francis Uzoho has his nose in front in this battle. But he also has the most to lose as any mistake, like the one which gifted Seychelles a goal in the last round of qualifying, could leave him in a hole he will find it tough to dig himself out of.
So a reasonable guess would be Uzoho and Ezenwa, and then depending on how things go in Saturday’s game, Uzoho and Akpeyi in the next Friendly.

The margin for error is slim to nonexistent.

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