Eagles focus on fitness as Rohr explains initial decision to drop Onuachu
• Team bars journalists, fans from training
• Squirrels line up ‘killer squad,’ recall goalkeeper
Journalists and fans were barred from Super Eagles training session at the Teslim Balogun Stadium yesterday, with team officials explaining that they want maximum concentration ahead of Saturday’s clash with Benin Republic.
Nigeria will travel to Porto Novo for an African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Benin Republic. Coach Gernot Rohr has the full complement of players he called up for the matches against Benin Republic and Lesotho, with the arrival of Leicester City striker, Kelechi Iheanacho, on Wednesday morning.
Iheanacho was expected to arrive in Lagos on Tuesday but couldn’t join the team after suffering a flight delay. Officials of the team said Iheanacho would be monitored closely to ascertain his fitness level ahead of the matches, adding that the initial attention is on the players’ physical readiness.
Goalkeepers’ trainer, Aloy Agu, had a separate session with Maduka Okoye, Francis Uzoho and John Noble when the warmed up ahead of a two-a-side game.
On Tuesday, Rohr took time out to explain why he initially omitted Belgium-based striker Paul Onuachu from his original 24-man roster.
Super Eagles fans questioned Rohr for omitting the striker who is among the hottest goal scorers in Europe. Explaining his decision, Rohr said: “You know Onuachu is part of the team, I invited him already when he played his first match and he scored a goal after seven seconds, and then the people are waiting all the time for him to do the same he could not.
“He’s part of our team, a very important player. Sometimes we also have to look for other players who deserve to have a chance.
“We know Paul already since more than two years and we want also to see Sadiq Umar, unfortunately the club did not release him so Onuachu is coming back.
“We also have other centre forwards like Moffi, we have also Awoniyi, we have so many strikers and we have to give them the chance but we cannot invite five center forwards, normally only two.
“That’s why Paul was on the standby list, now he is here which is the most important.
“The same people who are asking why are you playing Onuachu are now asking why you didn’t put him on the list of 23.”
Meanwhile, the Super Eagles may have to go the extra mile in their preparation if they must overcome the trap set by the Squirrels of Benin Republic in this weekend’s qualifier in Porto Novo.
Nigeria is on top of the group with eight points, while Benin is second. The Squirrels have lined up a squad dominated by foreign-based professionals, majority playing in the French league.
As part of their preparations for the game, the Squirrels have recalled Fabien Farnolle as one of the goalkeepers for the Match Day 5 and 6 games of the Africa Cup of Nations.
After hosting the Eagles on Saturday, Benin will travel to Guinea where they will be hosted by third-placed Sierra Leone on Tuesday.
The experienced and heavily built and bearded Fernolle has been sidelined for months. He only this month signed up with Ethiopian club, Sidama Coffee FC after becoming a free agent. He was previously with Turkish club, Erzurumspor. Farnolle also featured for Le Havre in the French Lique 1.