Racing Genk of Belgium striker, Cyriel Dessers and TSG Hoffenheim of Germany defender, Kevin Akpoguma have both raised the ante ahead of Friday’s international friendly against Algeria, in which they would both seek to get their debuts for Nigeria.
Aside 24 players originally officially invited for Friday’s game, with Paul Onuachu and Tyronne Ebuehi as late additions for the unavailable Victor Osimhen and Wilfred Onyinyen Ndidi, Akpoguma and Austria-based goalkeeper, Tobias Okiki Lawal were added to take the total number in camp to 26.
Alongside Akpoguma and Lawal, seven other lads born in overseas countries are with the team, with the lot of Emil Maduka Okoye, Leon Aderemi Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Ola Aina, Semi Ajayi, Ebuehi and Cyriel Dessers all having switched nationality to pledge allegiance to Nigeria.
The team’s first workout on Tuesday morning lasted for approximately one and a half hours, with the players split into two groups for a training game after the warm-up and recovery drills, while the arrivals of Ahmed Musa and Onuachu alter same day gave Gernot Rohr a full squad to commence full preparations at the next session.
While Dessers was born in Belgium to a Nigerian mother and Belgian father, Akpoguma grew up in Germany after being welcomed by Nigerian parents in Deutschland, but they have both taken the bold decision of committing their intentional futures to starring for the Super Eagles.
Dessers has received his second ever invitation to the Eagles’ camp, though the match for which he was invited the first time failed to hold in March because of coronavirus, and he is now aiming to get his Nigeria debut on Friday, while Akpoguma was only confirmed as a member of the squad on Monday, after getting the nod from world soccer governing body, FIFA.
Barely three days after his change of nationality was approved by FIFA, Akpoguma looks good to get his Nigeria debut, ahead of which he is hailing his new teammates for making him feel at home from the word go, while Dessers admitted he is eager to make his first outing for the Eagles in either or both of the upcoming international friendlies against Algeria and Tunisia.
The Dutch Eredivisie highest goals scorer last season, who the outbreak of coronavirus stopped from starring in home-and-away 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Sierra Leone, has failed to click since joining Genk, but he has still been deemed good enough by Eagles’ gaffer, Gernot Rohr for a second shot at a debut in green-and-white.
Dessers admitted he is deeply delighted with the opportunity to serve Nigeria and declared: ”I’m a striker now playing in KRC Genk in Belgium. I’m really happy to be here, my first call-up for the Super Eagles, it’s a dream that comes true. I can’t wait to be on the pitch, play the games, to meet you the fans, and I hope to see you soon.”
On his part, Akpoguma also expressed happiness at linking up with the Nigeria national team at their camp in Austria and the former Germany under-20 national team captain, who is one of nine overseas-born players now in the Eagles, said he would be glad to get his senior debut on Friday.
The youthful centre back, who had a total of 62 appearances for Germany’s youth teams before applying for a change of nationality, added that he is confident that Rohr can build a formidable team with the Eagles’ current set of players.
Akpoguma also admitted he will have to work hard to break into the starting lineup, as he revealed: “I decided for Nigeria because I see a lot of potential in the team, in the country. We have top players like Sammy (Chukwueze), Victor (Osimhen), Wilfred Ndidi, Iwobi.
“They are top players, they are playing in top leagues. If you put all of them together you’ll have a great team, for me it is a big honour to play with these guys. It’s not like you are German-born and want to play for Nigeria, everything is going automatically.
“I have to prove myself on the pitch, it’s not like you just come from Europe and you are directly in the side, you have to train hard to be successful as a team. That’s what I like in the team and that’s why I decided to play for my fatherland.
“I am 25 years old and I am very happy to be here with the Nigerian team. It’s a great experience at the moment here to be with the guys, everyone is very happy and nice. We are looking forward to the two friendly games we have now in this window, Algeria and Tunisia.
“Then we are preparing for the qualification in November, so I am very excited to be here. I am very excited to see the country again, when I was sixteen I was there and it’s now a long time so I am very happy to visit the country…”