WORLD CUP 2022 QUALIFIERS Premier League’s Stance, Rancour over Balogun Delay Eagles’ List

Femi Solaja

With air of uncertainty on the availability of key Super Eagles players from the English Premiership, Italian Serie A and in-house rancour over the invitation of Rangers FC of Scotland defender, Leon Balogun are partly the reasons why Gernot Rohr’s World Cup 2022 Qualifiers list of invited players is yet to be made public by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

THISDAY’s check revealed that the list scheduled for released on Monday or latest by Tuesday for the NFF secretariat to commence travel plans was delayed by the EPL stance on players going to Covid high-risk countries to play for their respective countries and last night, Italian Serie A also joined in the collective effort to stamp out the virus meaning Nigerian stars in the league are in doubt to make the trip to Eagles camp.

It was further learnt that Balogun’s condemnation of the NFF’s non-payment of some outstanding allowances of the players didn’t seat well with the leadership of the federation. It was further learnt that there were moves to drop the defender from the senior national team but head coach Rohr is believed to be adamant not to do so.

With EPL insisting no release of players in England for the Qatar 2022 Qualifiers to countries with high risks, Rohr is likely to miss the services of about 10 players from the topmost league in Europe and further compounded with three additional players in Italy now in doubt for the qualifiers too.

Super Eagles will host Lone Star of Liberia on 3rd September and four days later, the team will travel to Cape Verde for the Day-two fixture against the Blue Sharks in Praia.

But while it is safer for the players to play in the home match at Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos since the nation is on amber list, the same is not with Cape Verde who is on Red List and the players will not be available for the match.

A top official in the NFF admitted that the body is considering alternative arrangements which could mean foreign-based players from other leagues and in proportion with those from the domestic topflight prosecuting the game of Match-day two.

Affected players from England include: Alex Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Frank Onyeka, Oghenekaro Etebo, Emmanuel Dennis and William Troost-Ekong while Leon Balogun, Semi Ajayi and Joe Aribo are from Scottish the league making a total number of 10 players and in Italy, the trio of Victor Osimhen, Ola Aina and Tyronne Ebuehi have all been listed to miss the match for similar reason.

“We are weighing the options and it is not out of place if we allow more players in the domestic league with those from outside of the United Kingdom to form the bulk of invitees for the two matches.

“It’s a complex situation that requires diligent response. It would not be okay to rush the decision of players to be invited considering the magnitude of the competition at hand,” an NFF official observed last night.

The situation will leave Nigeria to make do with an under-strength squad against a potentially strong Cape Verde which caused a sensation in the season 2013/2014 and ranked among African top three in FIFA rankings.

Cape Verde were almost making it to Brazil 2014, but for annulment of their crucial win against Tunisia on account of fielding ineligible players.

They were undefeated in their two AFCON qualifiers with Cameroon, whom they walloped 3-1 in Praia last March.

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