*6 on standby
By Olawale Alabi
Super Eagles’ Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr on Tuesday listed midfielder Mikel John Obi in a 25-man squad to prepare for the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations (AfCoN) finals in Egypt.
Ademola Olajire, Director of Communications at the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), in a statement said Rohr also placed six other players on standby.
Mikel, who captained the team at the FIFA World Cup finals in Russia last year summer, had not been with the squad for some time now.
That was since Nigeria’s elimination from the Russia 2018 finals, after a 1-2 defeat by Argentina in Saint Petersburg.
However, a recent meeting with Rohr in the UK sealed the former Chelsea FC player’s return to the three–times African champions, with the possibility of adding to his 85 international caps.
Rohr has largely kept faith with the players who earned a ticket to the AfCoN finals with a match to spare.
Specifically, goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, defenders Leon Balogun and William Ekong, midfielders Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfred Ndidi and forwards Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi and Moses Simon are also on the roll-call.
He has put on standby six players.
Among them are defenders Ikouwem Utin and Valentine Ozornwafor who have also been named in Nigeria’s final 21 for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup starting in Poland next week.
Rohr explained that he included the two players knowing the FIFA U-20 World Cup would end on June 15, six days before the first match will be played at the AfCoN.
2018 FIFA World Cup defender Bryan Idowu is also placed on standby, alongside Portugal-based Mikel Agu and Egypt-based Junior Ajayi, as well as home-based goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai.
All invited players and officials are to report in Asaba on June 2, ahead of the team’s friendly with the Warriors of Zimbabwe at the Stephen Keshi Stadium on June 8.
The team will depart for Egypt on June 9 aboard a chartered aircraft, to set up a final training camp in the city of Ismailia.
They are to tackle Senegal in their final pre-AfCoN friendly on June 16.
Nigeria confront Burundi, Guinea and Madagascar in that order in Group B of the 32nd AfCoN holding in four Egyptian cities from June 21 to July 19.
THE 25 EAGLES LISTED FOR PRE-AFCON 2019 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: Mikel John 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)