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Players That Could Displace Some Regulars In Nigeria’s Squad For March AFCON Qualifiers

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Nigeria play their final two games in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers at the end of this month, with the list of players set to come out anytime soon.

Nigeria’s first game is against the Benin Republic in Cotonou on March 27 before playing host to Lesotho at the Teslim Balogun three days later.

The Super Eagles need just a point from their final two games to seal qualification and should have no problem in getting it.

Although getting the required point should not be a problem, the three-time African Champions are under massive pressure ahead of the two games after a disappointing performance in their last two qualifying matches.

Nigeria played Sierra Leone back to back in their last two qualifying matches, but it was a show of shame from the African giants.

The Super Eagles blew a four-goal lead in the first leg at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium before playing a boring 0-0 draw in the second leg in Freetown.

The team came in for criticism following the two games, which was duly deserved. But they will be eager to banish the memories by delivering two great performances in the final two matches.

Super Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr, will name his squad for the games anytime soon, with players like Alex Iwobi, Joe Aribo, Leon Balogun and William Troost Ekong expected to get a call-up.

However, while most regulars are likely to get called-up, Rohr has revealed some fresh faces would also be included.

With many Nigerian players impressing in Europe this season, Soccernet.ng takes a look at some of the players that could displace the regulars when Rohr names his squad.

Taiwo Awoniyi (Mainz): Taiwo Awoniyi has not had it easy at the senior level in his professional career. The Nigerian was part of the Golden Eaglets squad that conquered the world at the U-17 level in 2013.

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Two years later, he signed for Liverpool, but he is yet to play for the Reds due to work permit issues. Awoniyi has spent his entire time going out on loan at different clubs.

While the loan spells were supposed to aid his development, it did not really work until this season. The 22-year-old is currently on loan at Union Berlin, and it seems he has finally found his feet.

Awoniyi has five goals and two assists in 19 league games for the Capital side, who are punching above their weights this season.

You may also like: Taiwo Awoniyi Is Gradually Finding His Feet But What Does The Future Hold For Him?

Although he hasn’t found his scoring boots recently, Rohr has revealed he is one of the players that could get an invitation.

Having featured for the U17, U20 and U23 side, Awoniyi could be one of the few players to play for all of Nigeria’s football teams.

Terem Moffi (FC Lorient): Terem Moffi is Nigeria’s breakout star this season. The childhood friend of Alex Iwobi is one of the revelations of the season in the French Ligue 1.

Also Read: Revealed: The Relationship Between Nigeria’s Newest Star Terem Moffi And Alex Iwobi

Moffi joined Lorient from Belgian Jupiler League side, Kortrijk, for about eight million euros last October. He had a dream start scoring on his debut, but it was not until this year Moffi burst into public consciousness.

The 21-year-old has scored eight times and provided two assists in 18 league games for Lorient. Six of his goals came between January and February, which has put him in contention for a debut international call-up.

Rohr recently spoke highly of him, and with Osimhen’s fitness in doubt, Moffi could get his chance next month.

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Josh Maja (Fulham FC): While both Awoniyi and Moffi are yet to be called-up, Josh Maja already has the experience of playing for the Super Eagles- albeit on one occasion.

Maja made his debut for Nigeria in the 2-2 draw against Ukraine in September 2019. But that’s his only cap for Nigeria so far.

The competition in Nigeria’s attack and his form at club level has made it difficult for Maja to get a look from Rohr. However, the former Sunderland striker is back in contention following his recent performances for Fulham.

Maja joined the Cottagers on a loan deal from Bordeaux in January and has settled in quickly. He announced his arrival in the English top-flight with two goals against Everton on full debut.

Rohr recently expressed his delight in Maja’s form, and that could see him get a call-up next month.

Umar Sadiq (Almeria): Umar Sadiq is one of the players that helped the Nigerian U23 team win the Bronze medal in the football event of the 2016 Olympics.

But that was the closest he ever got to playing for the national team. The 24-year-old has never really been under consideration for a national team call-up.

However, that could change soon due to his impressive performances in the Spanish second division. Sadiq is leading Almeria’s promotion charge to the Spanish top-flight with 13 goals and five assists in 24 league appearances.

He was named La Liga SmartBank player of the month for January. The former Rangers star is on Rohr’s radar and could finally get his Super Eagles chance next month.

Francis Uzoho (Apoel Nicosia): Francis Uzoho is an established player in the Super Eagles team with 16 caps already. But he has not played for the team since he suffered that knee injury in Nigeria’s 1-1 draw with Brazil in 2019.

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The 22-year-old has seen his place taken by Maduka Okoye. Uzoho has returned to full fitness, but he had limited game time at the start of the season.

However, his situation has gradually improved this year, making seven appearances for Apoel Nicosia, including the last three games.

Although Rohr confirmed Okoye as Nigeria’s number one,  the 21-year-old’s form at Sparta Rotterdam could see Uzoho get his chance to stake a claim for the goalkeeping position.

John Noble (Enyimba): Rohr has always been criticised for not giving players from the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) a chance.

In fairness, it’s hard to see a domestic player get the nod ahead of foreign-based players as there’s a huge difference in quality between them.

Nonetheless, there’s a slim chance that Rohr could give room for one or two domestic league players when he names his squad.

Enyimba’s goalkeeper John Noble looks to be the likely player. Noble was the hero in Enyimba’s win over Rivers United in their CAF Confederations Cup playoff match.

The 27-year-old saved two spot-kicks to help the Peoples’ Elephants progress to the group stage. And with Rohr in the stands watching, he might have done enough to secure a spot in next month’s squad.

Kingsley Ehizibue (Cologne): Kingsley Ehizibue should’ve made his debut for Nigeria last year after he was initially called up for the doubleheader against Sierra Leone.

But the clash was postponed due to the coronavirus, and since then, he has been waiting. However, his performance for Cologne in recent games could see him get another invitation- although he will have to battle Ola Aina and Tyronne Ebuehi, who are equally in good form.

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