Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr has sent out a strong charge to his large array of young players and first time invitees to rise to the occasion on Tuesday, and ensure they put in a god fight to shock Ukraine in their high-profile international friendly at Dnipro-Arena, megasportsarena.com reports.
Although Ukraine are reputed with fiery results at home and most recently beat Lithuania 3-0 away, Rohr is not holding any fear of the hosts, as he believes the Eagles’ new invitees and the kids of his squad will take full advantage of the opportunity granted them by withdrawals of several key players and go all out to play for immediate relevance in the squad.
The Franco-German tactician admitted that he will roll out a relatively new breed Eagles on the night in Dnipro, but the former Niger Republic, Gabon and Burkina Faso handler reckoned further that the squad on offer will be able to hold their own against Ukraine and show what the next phase of his days with the Nigerian national team will most likely look like.
The Eagles’ reliable midfield maestro and captain, John Mikel Obi retired from international football after the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt, few hours before top scorer in the AFCON 2019 qualifying series and at the tournament proper, Odion Jude Ighalo also quit.
Eagles’ new captain, Ahmed Musa pulled out of the trip to eastern Europe only days from his flight, as an injury failed to heal as quickly as he expected, and his withdrawal from Tuesday’s game followed that by defenders Kenneth Omeruo and Tyronne Ebuehi, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and forward Henry Onyekuru.
Obi, Ighalo, Musa, Omeruo, Ebuehi and Ndidi were all at the FIFA World Cup finals last year, and Onyekuru only missed the squad list to Russia because of injury, which means several integral members of the Nigerian team are not in Dnipro for Tuesday’s friendly.
Given that six of them, except Ebuehi who also suffered a non-fortuitous injury, were also at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt earlier in the summer where Nigeria finished third and with the bronze medals among 24 teams, the squad that will file out on Tuesday is largely a new breed.
Though Joe Aribo, Maduka Okoye, Josh Maja and Emmanuel Dennis Bonaventure are going for Eagles’ debuts, while the last two were actually hurriedly called up as replacements for the withdrawn stars, Rohr believes his ‘alternate players’ can prove a point, and threw the gauntlet to his array of rookies to rise to the occasion at Dnipro-Arena, with a view that they can set the stage for a new beginning and a shade of fresh things to come for the Nigerian national team.
Rohr retorted: “This game is a big opportunity for us to begin our build-up towards the 2021 AFCON and the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
“Some of our key players retired from the team after the last AFCON in Egypt and some others are not here owing to injuries and other issues.
“We have some new and young players here so it is a good opportunity to see what they can bring to the team. We hope for a good game against a very solid team playing at home.”