Rohr drops Mikel for Seychelles tie picks Kalu, Onyekuru, Ajayi

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Festus Abu

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr on Friday named a 28-man squad for the Cameroon 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against minnows Seychelles in Victoria on September 7.

Four of the players – Croatia-based defender Musa Muhammed, Switzerland-based forward Blessing Eleke, Bulgaria-based defender Stephen Eze and Belgium-based holding midfielder UcheAgbo –were named on the standby list.

Rohr, who has kept faith with 18 members of his Russia 2018 World Cup squad, listed 24-year-old  England-born Rotherham United  defender Semi Ajayi  alongside  24-year-old SC Paderborn (German second-tier side) left-back Jamilu Collins, new Bordeaux winger Samuel Kalu and Porto B loanee Kelechi Nwakali on his 24-man main squad. The four players are uncapped.

The German manager  dropped  veteran left-back Elderson Echiejile, who has  struggled to impress  since Rohr took the reins after  Sunday Oliseh suddenly resigned as Nigeria manager in 2016.

The 30-year-old is the only member of the Russia 2018 team who was unceremoniously dropped for the Seychelles encounter.

Rohr told reporters in Lagos on Friday that Mikel Obi would not be available for the match as the China-based midfielder has only just returned from a leg injury.

Versatile Dutch-born defender Tyronne Ebuehi is still on the treatment table after suffering a serious knee injury during Benfica’s International Champions Cup clash against Juventus last month and Rohr said he would miss the game just as injured Turkey-based right-back Abdullahi Shehu.

Ajayi, a central defender on the books of Championship club Rotherham United, and left-back Collins, who plays for SC Paderborn 07 in the German second division, are amongst four uncapped players in the 24-man squad unveiled in Lagos on Friday.

Rohr retained the three goalkeepers he took to Russia –Francis Uzoho, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United), as well as under-fire China-based striker Odion Ighalo.

Ighalo came under pressure from some sections of the Nigerian media and fans after he missed two great opportunities to send the Eagles into the second round at Russia 2018 in the team’s last group fixture against Argentina in Saint Petersburg. The South Americans won the clash 2-1 to advance.

Rohr said, “I have given him the opportunity to show that he can still score goals. He’s fit and has been scoring goals for his club.”

The former Gabon coach said they would not underestimate the Pirates, who like the Eagles, lost their first qualifier last year. Nigeria lost 2-0 to South Africa in Uyo while Seychelles were beaten 5-1 by Libya.

Rohr said the Eagles could not afford to miss out on the next AFCON after their failure to qualify for the last two editions of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Nigeria assistant coach Salisu Yusuf, who is being investigated for alleged bribery, has been omitted from the Seychelles trip.

Rohr, who denied that his assistant took a bribe from undercover reporters who posed as player agents, said it was on the orders of FIFA.

Full list

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Elche, Spain), Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba, Nigeria), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United, South Africa)

Defenders: Leon Balogun (Brighton & Hove Albion, England), William Troost-Ekong (Udinese, Italy), Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes, Spain), Chidozie Awaziem (FC Porto, Portugal), Semi Ajayi (Rotherham, England), Ola Aina (Torino, Italy), Brian Idowu (Lokomotiv Moscow, Russia), Jamilu Collins (SC Paderborn 07, Germany)

Midfielders: Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor, Turkey), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England), Joel Obi (Chievo Verona, Italy), John Ogu (Hapoel Beer Sheva, Italy), Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City, England), Kelechi Nwakali (FC Porto B, Portugal)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al-Nassr, Saudi Arabia), Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai, China), Simeon Nwankwo (Crotone, Italy), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, England), Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray, Turkey), Samuel Kalu (Bordeaux, France), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England)

Stand-by list: Uche Abo (Standard Liege, Belgium), Stephen Eze (Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Bulgaria), Musa Muhammed (HNK Gorica, Croatia), Blessing Eleke (FC Luzern, Switzerland)

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