Simy Nwankwo, not Ighalo deserves Eagles recall ― Dr Tijani Yusuf

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By Jacob Ajom

Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr must be the happiest man on planet earth at the moment. His wards have been painting Europe with goals. His biggest wish is to see his players continue to do well leading up to the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Nigeria is grouped alongside Liberia, Central Africa Republic (CAR), and Cape Verde. Only the top team in each of the ten pools will advance to the final knockout stages, where they will play home and away for a place in Qatar.

Early this week, Gernot Rohr stirred the Hornet’s Nest when he said one of Europe’s top scorers, Simeon Nwankwo who plies his trade with Serie A club, Crotone had a very slim chance of making his Super Eagles squad for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. He argued that with the likes of Victor Osimhen, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Paul Onuachu firing on all cylinders, Nwankwo would not have it easy breaking the ranks.

The lanky forward scored a brace against Parma last weekend to bring his total goal-haul for the bottom of the table club to 29 to become Nigeria’s most successful striker in the history of Italia Calcio.

In a chat with EuropaCalcio, Rohr said competition for places in the Eagles was very high but advised the striker to move to a better club to boost his chances of nicking a place in his team. He added that at the moment, he had very good strikers who play a similar style to the Crotone forward.

“So it is very difficult to be part of the Nigeria attack,” Rohr said. “We have very good players.

“I believe that next year he must go and play in a bigger club and in a team that is stronger than Crotone.”

A Former Director of the National Institute for Sports, Dr Tijani Yusuf is not happy with the coach’s assertion. “This is ridiculous,” he said.

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“Any coach worth his salt would look for goal scorers to put into his team, players who can give him goals in order to win matches.

“It is, therefore, most surprising that Gernot Rohr is talking that way about a player who has scored more than 20 goals in Serie A.”

He opined that Nwankwo playing with Crotone should have attracted more praise from Rohr instead of trying to deride the player because his club was at the low end of the table.

“When you talk of the five top leagues in Europe the Serie A is a grade-A league alongside the English Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, and the French Ligue 1. It is a grade-A league in Europe. So what is Rohr talking about?” Dr. Yusuf asked.

The retired Director from the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development wondered if Rohr acts alone on players’ invitation to the national team. “Does Rohr have backroom staff who advise him?

“They know what they want, but all we want is, let the best play for this country. We want good results.”

Former Super Eagles assistant coach, Sylvanus Okpala said, coach Gernot Rohr, has the prerogative to choose whoever he wants to play for him because only he knows those who would guarantee him victory.

“The point here is that he has other strikers who are performing well. As a coach, he wants to rely on those strikers. Another thing is that if Simy is also playing well for his club, does it mean that it is only the striking position that he can play?” he asked, suggesting that the coach can, as well, look at other positions within the frontline, either left or right or in the wings for Nwankwo. In football, you don’t know what will happen. He could be drafted in to play in a position he may not have been known with. We have had situations where an attacker was asked to play in the defense.”

Our weekend editor, Onochie Anibeze also lent his weight behind the argument. “If Rohr was a good coach, he would not have said that he wouldn’t need Simy because of the presence of other strikers in the Eagles.

“In the days of Clemens Westerhof, there were matches he fielded Amokachi, Yekini, and Samson Siasia. But he made sure Siasia was a little behind, like an attacking midfielder, while Amokachi and Yekini played up front,” Onochie recalled.

“A good coach cannot throw away a jewel-like Simy Nwankwo. He would have him in the squad and make adjustments to accommodate him.”

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However, more than two years after Ighalo retired, Super Eagles manager Gernot Rohr revealed that the ex-Man Utd could be handed a recall to the team.

When asked why he wants Ighalo back, Rohr told Elegbete TV: “The answer is simple. The answer is when you look at the age of all the players that you speak about, they are all young, and also we need experience.

Commenting on Ighalo’s impending recall to the national team, Joba Ogunwale said, “Rohr’s latest comment about Ighalo is the latest in a series of recently questionable decisions from the German tactician.

“In a season that Nigerian strikers have stood out at their respective clubs, Ighalo’s potential recall raises a question on Rohr’s thought process.”

He continued, “Paul Onuachu, Sadiq Umar, Kelechi Iheanacho, Terem Moffi, and Simy Nwankwo are all having a brilliant campaign at their respective clubs, yet Rohr is considering adding Ighalo’s name to the list. And if Rohr is considering handing anyone a recall, it should be Simy and not Ighalo.”

On Rohr’s insistence for Ighalo’s return, Dr. Yusuf said, “I have heard some people saying Ighalo should not come back because his presence might rupture the chemistry already established in the team.

“Rohr should listen, even though it is his prerogative to select his team. It is therefore surprising that when you have people who are knowledgeable about football, people who have played the game trying to make inputs, and then you ignore them. It spells doom for our country. If he knows his onions, he can arrange a squad that can match any team in the world.”

On his part, Okpala insisted, “It is Rohr’s choice. We can’t question why he is inviting Musa and Ighalo. Probably, he knows them more than the other person you are talking about. But that does not stop him from inviting the other person because a squad is made up of 23 players and it is not all the 23 players that will play. He can bring him in, train with the team, to build his confidence so that anytime he is called upon to play he will not see himself as a stranger. All we are looking for is result. When he doesn’t get good results we can then ask questions.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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