The 2022 World Cup qualifiers kicked off in Africa on August 31 and the Super Eagles took on the Lone Star of Liberia in Lagos on September 2.

With the shrinking distance between supposedly elite teams and minnows daily and whatever the calculations and permutations, the Eagles, ranked 34th in the world, got a comfortable 2-0 victory over the Lone Star of Liberia, ranked 150th in the world last Friday.

On Tuesday, September 7, the Eagles will be in Mindelo to face a tricky Cape Verde team, ranked 77th in the world, without William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun, Wilfred Ndidi, Joe Aribo, Alex Iwobi, and the two-goal scorer against Liberia, Kelechi Iheanacho.

These six players started against Liberia and Gernot Rohr cannot call on the services of another midfielder in Oghenekaro Etebo, who plays for Watford in the Premier League.

Juxtapose this thought with the fact that the Eagles have been unconvincing in their last four matches, in which they have lost two drawn once, and won the latest last Friday-their first victory in 2021.

When the African qualifiers kicked off last Wednesday, Rohr told journalists in Lagos, “We are preparing the team as best as possible, but we will not have some of our best players.

“All our midfielders will not be there. Our central defence also will not be there, so it will not be easy against a very difficult team like Cape Verde.”

Rohr, being a reticent manager, does not like changes, especially with his first 11 engraved on his mind, but circumstances have forced him to innovate. The United Kingdom advised players within her borders not to travel to red-listed COVID-19 countries like Cape Verde or else risk a 14-day quarantine on return, which means six of his starting 11 last Friday are unavailable on Tuesday.

The UK Prime Minister did not heed the pleas of FIFA boss, Gianni Infantino, so the Eagles back-up have to take up the gauntlet in Mindelo and get a good result to at least keep them top of Group C until the next round of matches. This was why Rohr released a 30-man list. I have given this list a cursory runover to seek the players within who will take up the gauntlet to more than fill the missing gaps.

Kevin Akpoguma and Frank Onyeka did not make the Lagos camp because of COVID-19 positive tests, which left 28 players.

After the 2-0 win over Liberia on Friday, Rohr said, “Nine players are leaving, and it’s not easy to build another team in only two days.”

Finding Solutions

Not easy-very true, but this is one major reason the Nigeria Football Federation pays Rohr the big bucks. One clear mandate is to create a squad able to withstand dismissals, suspensions, and injuries. This is especially hard for a coach who does not tinker and is averse to making changes. Rohr has been forced into a situation he is not comfortable with, but one he has to deal with promptly.

Meanwhile, Nigeria boasts of football players in almost every country in the world, therefore, the coach should get inventive and turn the apparent misfortune he has been dealt into a good hand because he still has 19 capable players from which he must fashion a winning side for Tuesday’s encounter.

Dismissals, suspensions, and injuries are a way of life in football and repeatedly, results have proven that successful teams do not comprise the first 11 but the entire squad of maybe 23. Tuesday’s encounter affords Rohr a great opportunity to enlarge his trust base from the usual 14 to a stronger unit of 23.

Both Chidozie Awaziem and Kenneth Omeruo are reasonably seasoned and have won 75 caps between them; they can come into central defence. ‘

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With his showings for Malmo in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers, Innocent Bonke can step in for Wilfred Ndidi, as the defensive midfielder, though he has to be guided through with caution.

Ahmed Musa, with all his experience, can come in while Victor Osimhen, who did not have a good day against Liberia, is still available to lead the attack.

“We have to build another defence, another midfield,” reiterated Rohr. “The goal scorer Kelechi will leave, so it will not be easy. It’s a challenge for the staff and for the players, but we have to show our solidarity,” he added.

“You cannot make progress with excuses,” said Cam Newton thus Rohr has to see the best in his back-ups and create a cohesive strategy for the available Eagles team to make them super on Tuesday.

Nigeria leads Group C with three points; followed by Cape Verde and the Central African Republic, on one point with Liberia in fourth place, with no point after one match.

Tuesday’s encounter will kick off at 5 pm, Nigeria time.

The 30-man list [Bold lettered players are not available]

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho; Daniel Akpeyi; Maduka Okoye

Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem; Kenneth Omeruo; Leon Balogun; William Troost-Ekong; Olaoluwa Aina; Jamilu Collins; Abdullahi Shehu; Zaidu Sanusi; Kevin Akpoguma

Midfielders: Oghenekaro Etebo; Wilfred Ndidi; Frank Onyeka; Joseph Ayodele-Aribo

Forwards: Ahmed Musa; Alex Iwobi; Samuel Kalu; Victor Osimhen; Kelechi Iheanacho; Moses Simon; Paul Onuachu

Standby: Terem Moffi; Henry Onyekuru; Chidera Ejuke; Innocent Bonke; Valentine Ozornwafor; Tyronne Ebuehi; Kingsley Michael.

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