To say the World Cup dreams of the trio of Kelechi Nwakali, Chidibere Nwakali and Mohammed have been dealt a deadly blow by the FIFA rule which prevents member associations from bringing new names into the provisional list submitted for the 2018 World Cup in Russia is indeed an understatement.
Following the inspiring performance by the Super Eagles team B against Europa League champions, Atletico Madrid in a friendly match played on Tuesday in Uyo, there have been clarion calls from soccer-loving Nigerians for some of the players who were outstanding in the match to be included in the provisional list for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Despite the 3-2 loss to Diego Simeone-led team, the team made a huge statement as regards what they can offer to the senior national team and have given the Super Eagles German tactician, Gernot Rohr fresh selection headache.
Nigeria’s goals were scored by Arsenal player, Kelechi Nwakali who scored a beautiful goal against a ‘stingy’ Jan Oblak and Sarpsborg 08 midfielder, Usman Mohammed who displayed a superb ball control and body movement to score the second goal.
Usman’s goal became a viral topic on the social media due to the composure he displayed to undertake the triple shimmy mixed with a deft and neat step-over to send the defenders sprawling on the pitch.
Chidiebere Nwakali who is Kelechi’s elder brother was magnificent in his playing skills. He controlled the midfield with an Andrea Pirlo kind of composure. This did not come to many as a surprise because the Manchester City youngster had shown his quality right from his days in the Golden Eaglets.
It will be recalled that on Monday, May 14, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) released the Super Eagles 30-man preliminary squad for the World Cup. The list has the regular suspects in captain Mikel, Iwobi, Moses, Odion Ighalo, Ogenyi Onazi, John Ogu, Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong.
There were also first-time call-ups for Crotone of Italian Serie A striker Simeon Nwankwo who has been in form in recent weeks with the only space for the home-based outfield player and Kano Pillars striker Junior Lokosa who currently leads the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) goal chart.
Interestingly, the ‘Team A’ were in the stadium as they have been at the Le Meridien Hotel and Golf Resort in preparation for the friendly match against DR Congo scheduled for May 25, 2018 before jetting out to London for another friendly against England.
A former Nigeria winger and Atlanta 96 Olympic gold medallist, Tijani Babaginda who spoke to Goal.com said “they will be giving the coach (Rohr) a lot of headaches but the good thing is that the coach may have penciled down the names of some of them for his future plans.
“I think [Kelechi] Nwakali and [Usman] Mohammed did very well. I believe they also merit being part of the team preparation for Russia and should possibly play in some of the friendlies.
“For both players to score those kinds of goals, they deserved some accolades and to be rewarded too. The good thing is that few players have been noticed by the coach.
“So for sure, they will be in his future plan and whenever their names pump up, he will definitely not think twice before giving them a chance to showcase their talents.”
Many other football analysts had queued behind the former international in calling for the trio to be included in the list for the World Cup.
Unfortunately, the excitement for both the players and their supporters was cut short when the Media Officer of the Super Eagles Toyin Ibitoye drew Nigerians attention to the existing FIFA rule which states clearly that no association can bring in new players at this time of the day.
Meanwhile Shot! had identified Joel Obi, Mikel Agu and Uche Agbo as players were likely give way for Chidiebere Nwakali, Kelechi Nwakali and Usman Mohammed, if Rohr decides to yield to popular demand. Why the above mentioned players?
The Torino midfielder has been injury plagued and was most recently involved in car accident. He is currently on a free-injury spree and has what it takes to make any team- he is that good. However, his level of fitness has been questioned even by his club and this is where Kelechi Nwakali has the edge.
The FC Porto defensive midfield player currently on loan to Turkish side, Bursaspor has so far not impressed Nigerians who had in the past questioned his regular call-ups to the national team. Most recently, he was a late call-up for Mikel Obi for the friendly against Serbia. Since he made his international debut against Togo on June 1, 2017, he has really struggled to impress. Chidiebere can be his replacement.
The Belgian club Standard Liège midfielder who is on loan from English club Watford plays as either a central or a defensive midfielder. Not much is known about him except that he was called up to replace injured Leon Balogun for a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Zambia in October 2016 but made his official debut in a 3-0 win against Togo in a friendly where he replaced Wilfred Ndidi. He too has failed to convince Nigerian football fans and is seen by many as the man to pave way for Usman Mohammed to come in.
Most Nigerian football analysts would have been happy to have the trio in the Super Eagles without further delay but FIFA’s rules cannot be challenged or amended over night, leaving the youngsters with no option but to wait for 2022 World Cup, if the Eagles would qualify.