*Ezenwa is only home-based in main list, Enyimba trio on standby
After nearly one-year’s absence from the Nigerian senior national team, Middlesbrough FC midfielder, John Mikel Obi, yesterday made his return to the Super Eagles.
The former Chelsea FC midfield enforcer was one of the 25 players Coach Gernot Rohr listed in his squad to begin preparations for the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt this summer. Six other players were placed on standby in case of injuries to any of the players in the main list.
Mikel who captained Eagles at the FIFA World Cup finals in Russia last year summer, has not been with the group since Nigeria’s elimination from the finals after a 1-2 defeat by Argentina in Saint Petersburg.
THISDAY had reported recently that the former Tianjin Teda player in the Chinese Super League remains on Rohr’s radar as the coach is seeking the commanding influence of the Mikel in the team at the continental showpiece in Egypt.
However, a recent meeting with Coach Rohr in the United Kingdom sealed Mkkel’s return to the three-time African champions, with the possibility of adding to his 85 international caps.
Interestingly, most of the players invited were the usual suspects since Rohr took charge of the team. They are the same Trojans who earned a ticket to the AFCON 2019 finals with a match to spare, with goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, defenders Leon Balogun and William Ekong, midfielders Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfred Ndidi and forwards Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi and Moses Simon also on the roll-call.
Among the six players placed on standby are defenders are Enyimba’s trio of Ikouwem Utin, Valentine Ozornwafor, and goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai. Both Utin and Ozornwafor were named in Nigeria’s final 21 for the FIFA U20 World Cup starting in Poland next week.
The Franco-German tactician however explained that he has included the two players knowing the FIFA U20 World Cup will end on 15th June, six days before the first match will be played at the AFCON.
2018 FIFA World Cup defender Bryan Idowu is also on standby, alongside Portugal-based Mikel Agu and Egypt-based Junior Ajayi.
NFF’s Director of Communication Ademola Olajire said yesterday that all invited players and officials are to report at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Asaba on Sunday, 2nd June, ahead of the friendly with the Warriors of Zimbabwe at the Stephen Keshi Stadium on Saturday, 8th June.
“The team will depart for Egypt on Sunday, 9th June aboard a chartered aircraft, set up a final training camp in the city of Ismailia and tackle Africa’s number one-ranked team, Senegal in their final pre-AFCON friendly on Sunday, 16th June,” concludes Olajire.
Nigeria confront Burundi, Guinea and Madagascar in that order in Group B of the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations taking place in four Egyptian cities 21stJune – 19th July
25 EAGLES FOR CAMP
Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Anorthosis Famagusta, Cyprus); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Katsina United); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa)
Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor FC, Turkey); Chidozie Awaziem (Caykur Rizespor, Turkey); William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy); Leon Balogun (Brighton & Hove Albion, England); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Semi Ajayi (Rotherham United, England)
Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Middlesbrough FC, England); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City FC, England); John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al Nassar FC, Saudi Arabia); Victor Osimhen (Royal Charleroi SC, Belgium); Moses Simon (Levante FC, Spain); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray SK, Turkey); Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua, China); Alexander Iwobi (Arsenal FC, England); Samuel Kalu (Girondins Bordeaux, France); Paul Onuachu (FC Midtjyland, Denmark); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain)
Six On Standby: Theophilus Afelokhai (Enyimba FC); Bryan Idowu (Lokomotiv Moscow, Russia); Ikouwem Utin (Enyimba FC); Mikel Agu (Vitoria Setubal, Portugal); Junior Ajayi (Al Ahly, Egypt); Valentine Ozornwafor (Enyimba FC)