Leganes of Spain defender, Chidozie Awaziem looks good to start Sunday’s international friendly for Nigeria against Brazil, while FC Nantes of France winger, Moses Simon and Glasgow Rangers’ of Scotland midfielder, Joe Aribo have also laid good ground for roles in the Super Eagles’ first eleven.
Of the lot, Awaziem appears best placed to make up for the absences of Leon Aderemi Balogun and Kenneth Omeruo, while Simon has to battle it out until the last training session with Club Brugge of Belgium winger, Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis, and same applies with Aribo, whose place is being contested by Ramon Azeez from Granada of Spain.
The contest appears fiercest on central midfield, with Aribo laying claim to a spot due to his goal on his debut last month against Ukraine, while Azeez is angling for a return to the role he last played for the Eagles in 2014.
With the England-based duo of Wilfred Onyinyen Ndidi and Alex Iwobi already assured of their places in the starting line-up for Sunday’s game at Singapore National Stadium, Eagles’ coach, Gernot Rohr is checking on both Aribo and Azeez to determine who completes his three-man midfield pack.
However, Rohr is still holding a semblance of concern over Aribo, who recently suffered a serious head injury in action for his club, with his suspect fitness and need to wear a guard to cover the scare looking likely to put him behind Azeez, who has been in form for La Liga returnees, Granada this season, with a goal to show in his team’s 2-0 victory over Barcelona early last month.
On the other hand, the role Awaziem will play on Sunday is not yet clear cut, as Rohr is currently considering either employing him in central defence alongside skipper of the day, William Troost-Ekong, which would mean dropping Semi Ajayi to the bench, or let him continue his role as makeshift right-back, which he executed to perfection during the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Rohr will decide during Saturday’s official training at the match venue where Awaziem will play, but his chances at right-back look unlikely, due to the recall of Benfica of Portugal’s Tyronne Ebuehi to the squad and the impressive leels of maturity being shown by Bursaspor of Turkey’s Shehu Abdullahi, who used to be the unshaken regular for that spot.
Nonetheless, Awaziem is on course to start on Sunday, as he featured in training with the possible, while Abdullahi and Ebuehi were with the B-squad of probables, but the Benfica star ended up trying out at left-back, with the possibility of him deputizing SC Perdeborn of Germany’s Jamilu Collins in that role as well.
Up front, Simon looks to have won the battle to pair Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze in the absence of Samuel Kalu, as the former SK Trencin of Slovakia and KAA Gent of Belgium winger has excelled in all training sessions held by the Eagles in Singapore.
Apart from his dazzling runs down the wingers, linking attack superbly from the flanks, Simon has also flaunted his ability to back track and support the defence, with his all-round energetic displays and efforts seemingly putting him ahead of first time invitees, Peter Olayinka, Viv Solomon-Otabor and second-timer, Bonaventure.
Simon, though, is ahead of the pack, as Rohr admitted he has been impressed with the form being shown by the dark-skinned lad, who is on loan at Nantes from Levante of Spain, and the coach suggested at the pre-match press conference that the regular run of games the player is getting in France has helped him get back to his best physical shape.
Therefore, Simon will most likely start on the left of the Eagles’ attack come Sunday, with Chukwueze on the right and Osimhen th arrow head, just like he did against Ukraine, during which he was all fiery throughout and capped his efforts by converting a penalty in the 2-2 draw.
However, while making his projections during his preview of Sunday’s high-profile game, Rohr acknowledged that Brazil are the best team in the world and modestly submitted that the Eagles are in Singapore to learn from the five-time FIFA World Cup champions.
Rohr said during the press conference on Saturday: “The game against Brazil will show how much we are progressing after finishing third at the Africa Cup in Egypt.
”It is a fantastic opportunity for us to learn a few more things that will make us better and stronger for future challenges.
“This is an important test game for us, and we are here to learn from the best. We hope for a very good game against Brazil on Sunday.
”This will help us prepare ourselves for the 2021 AFCON qualifiers against Benin Republic and Lesotho next month.”