Saturday 22 June 2019

/ by Colin Udoh

Forward Samuel Kalu is unlikely to play any part as Nigeria gear up for their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations opener against Burundi on Saturday evening in Alexandria.

The Bordeaux forward collapsed in training and was immediately taken to hospital. Initial reporting was that the player had suffered a heart attack, but NFF Communications Director Ademola Olajire said tests at the hospital showed the player was just dehydrated.
“He was stabilised immediately but taken to hospital for further tests. Found to be dehydrated and advised to be taking more fluids,” Olajire said.

Kalu’s dehydrated state would be down to the extreme temperatures in Egypt, which have been projected to reach as high as 38 degrees Celsius. But it provides a further selection headache for Gernot Rohr, who was already battling with illness among his squad.

Half of the Nigeria squad came down with a cold in the opening week of their   training camp in Ismailia.
It was bad enough that Gernot Rohr lamented the situation at his pre-match press conference

“We had a friendly against Zimbabwe under strong rain and so some of us caught cold even me so we had some sickness in the team,” he said.
“In the second week in Ismailia, half the team was sick but now only one player has this problem and I hope that tomorrow everyone will be fit.”

That hope was dashed when forward Samuel Kalu collapsed during training on the eve of the game.
However, Kalu is unlikely to feature against Burundi, which is a loss for Nigeria.

But where that would have been a major setback in the past, Rohr’s squad-building over the last three years has ensured that the shock can be absorbed with little pain

Kalu and Ahmed Musa are usually the starting wide forwards, but Rohr has enough depth that his biggest headache would actually be who to replace him with.

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Available for selection are Moses Simon, Henry Onyekuru and Samuel Chukwueze. All three are not just capable replacements, but could be starters in their own right.
Of the three, Onyekuru is higher up the pecking order, both on the basis of his club form and what he has shown when donning the national team jersey. He is more likely to start, with Chukwueze and Simon jostling for the other spot.

Elsewhere, there are other depth headaches for Rohr, with decisions to make on at least three other spots as the German prepares to name his squad. Alex Iwobi is the usual offensive midfield starter but has not quite looked his usual sizzling form.

Oghenekaro Etebo, who is a two-way midfielder, is in contention to replace him in the starting lineup to add to the midfield trident of Mikel Obi and Wilfred Ndidi.

Further down, the coach has to decide between Leon Balogun and Kenneth Omeruo for the second centre back spot along with William Troost-Ekong.

Whichever way the coach decides to go, he has plenty of quality options to pick from. And Nigerians will expect a win

Akpeyi, Shehu, Troost-Ekong, Omeruo, Collins; Mikel, Ndidi, Iwobi; Musa Ighalo, Onyekuru

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