With just a month to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers, Super Eagles’ head coach, Gernot Rohr faces a huge selection dilemma in the attacking area of his team; a department that is littered with players who are doing incredible numbers for their club sides across Europe. Like acne on a pimply teen, the dilemma isn’t going away.
Since the retirement of Odion Ighalo, who top-scored for the country at the last AFCON qualifiers and the showpiece itself, LOSC Lille rampaging forward Victor Osimhen had taken up the mantle to lead the Super Eagles’ attack. The precocious forward has fitted into the role seamlessly having notched up four goals in nine appearances for Nigeria.
However, Osimhen’s goals aren’t always cast in stone and injuries could always play a part. The real conundrum for Rohr is who picks up the slack should Osimhen’s goals dry up, or maybe if the coach needs to have a change of plan or tactics in a game.
There’s the red-hot Heraclieden centre-forward, Cyril Dessers who has stirred up conversations with his sparkling performances for Heracles in the Dutch Eredivisie, leading the goal scorers’ chart with 14 strikes. Dessers is quick, has buckets of pace to burn and his hold-up play is almost unmatched in the Dutch League.
Although Dessers is yet to be capped by Nigeria, the forward has confirmed there has been contact with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and is hoping to fulfill one of his life’s goals of featuring for the West African giants.
Another forward who has been left out from the team for almost a year is Kelechi Iheanacho. Since missing out from the squad that finished third at the last Nations Cup, Iheanacho has been in incredible form for Leicester City.
So far, the left-footed forward has plundered seven goals and three assists in all competitions for his club. Whether his recent form is enough to convince Rohr to recall him remains to be seen, but one thing that seems certain is his renewed vigour plus he has formed a good nexus with working with the current established order in the Super Eagles.
There are a few other players who have thrown their hats into the ring expecting call-ups from the Super Eagles’ Gaffer.
Emmanuel Dennis is one name that springs to mind, with the forward scoring eight goals so far in Belgium with Club Brugge this season. Although he already has a cap to his name, he is still yet to prove to Nigerians that he can do it on the international stage.
Since last playing for the Eagles, the forward has scored against Real Madrid in the Champions League and Manchester United in the Europa League. Aside from being able to play as a striker, Dennis offers Rohr the option of being able to play out wide.
The man currently holding the position as a back-up striker for Rohr, Paul Onuachu, is yet to convince Nigerians when donning the green and white, bar the spectacular goal he scored against Egypt in a friendly last year. He, however, has been racking up the numbers, scoring fourteen goals for his new club Genk this season.
Rohr might still be tempted to bring him back for the Sierra Leone game because of his penchant for having a tall attacker in his fold, which offers him a different outlet tactically when chasing a game. Standing at 201cm, Onuachu beam-pole like frame puts him in pole position.
Also, with Trabzonspor’s Anthony Nwakeme already assessed and discarded, his eleven goals and six assists for his club might offer him some leeway back into the Super Eagles fold.
It’s going to be a tough choice for Rohr to select his attackers, but for any of the strikers listed above who eventually make the cut, their league form surely backs their inclusion in the team.