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Omeruo, Nwakaeme, Olanrewaju may miss World Cup in Russia


Algeria’s forward Yacine Brahimi (L) challenges Nigeria’s defender Kenneth Omeruo during the 2018 FIFA World Cup African zone group B qualifying football match between Nigeria and Algeria at the Akwa Ibom State Stadium in Uyo on November 12, 2016.PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

Unless his club form improves tremendously, Brazil 2014 World Cup star, Kenneth Omeruo will not make Nigeria’s squad to next year’s edition of the Coupe du Mundo. Also in danger of missing the party are Anthony Nwakaeme and Kayode Olanrewaju, both of who were in the fringes of the squad during the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying series.

The Guardian has gathered that Coach Gernot Rohr has a 33-man list from which he will select his final 23 players for the World Cup.According to some insiders at the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Rohr already has his first 15 players and will determine the remaining eight spots through the various friendly games lined up for the Super Eagles as preparatory matches for Russia 2018.

Omeruo, Nwakaeme and Olanrewaju are in the list, but sources close to Rohr say they are among the eight who must prove why they should be in the squad to Russia during the friendly games.Former Super Eagles stalwart, Obafemi Martins and Ramon Azeez are said to be on the fringes of the team and could only get serious attention if any of the players that featured in the qualifiers got tournament threatening injury. Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama’s case is slightly different as his inclusion depends on what he does at the club level before the final World Cup list is made.

In Coach Rohr’s 33-man list are goalkeepers Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Daniel Akpeyi and Francis Uzoho. Vincent Enyeama is on standby.The defenders are Elderson Echiejile, Shehu Abdullahi, Ola Aina, William Troost Ekong, Leon Balogun, Tyronne Ebuehi, Bryan Idowu, Chidozie Awaziem and Kenneth Omeruo.Skipper John Obi Mikel leads the midfield, which has also Wilfred Ndidi, Ogenyi Onazi, John Ogu, Mikel Agu, Ogenekaro Etebo and Alex Iwobi, while in attack are Odion Ighalo, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses and Moses Simon.

Others are Henry Onyekuru, Kayode Olanrewaju and Anthony Nwakaeme.At the Brazil 2014 World Cup, Nigeria listed three goalkeepers, eight defenders, five midfielders and seven attackers in a squad criticised for being too light in some areas, especially the defence and midfield.

Now, Rohr must decide the type of players he wants in his final squad, but there are indications that he may opt for players that can play multiple roles for the team.According to the source, some of the players already assured of inclusion in the final squad barring any serious injury are Mikel, Alex Iwobi, Victor Moses, Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun, Ogenyi Onazi, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Ola Aina, Shehu Abdullahi, Odion Ighalo, Kelechi Iheanacho, Oghenekaro Etebo, Wilfred Ndidi and Ahmed Musa.

“Coach initially put Henry Onyekuru down as an alternative source of goals, but the boy is now injured and may not be fit enough for the challenges of the World Cup.“The plot will become clearer when we start the friendly matches next year. That will be when such players as Brown Ideye and Ugah will get the last opportunity to stake their claims to the team,” the source said.

Onyekuru’s coach at Anderlecht yesterday revealed that the on-loan Everton star has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a serious knee injury.
The striker suffered the injury against former club Eupen on December 22.Recent scans show the injury to be more serious than initially suspected.

“He could be out for as long as six months,” Anderlecht coach, Hein Vanhaezebrouck told reporters.It is a cruel blow for the 20-year-old, who had played in 19 league games and appeared in four Champions League matches for the Brussels outfit.He was given a run out in Nigeria’s last World Cup qualifier in Algeria in November when he came on in the second half of the 1-1 draw and was hoping to make Gernot Rohr’s final 23-man squad for Russia in June.

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