Updated: Mar 20, 2022
Speculations are rife that France based Innocent Bonke, who made his debut for Nigeria in September 2021, is likely to be called up to replace injured Wilfred Ndidi for the double header qualifiers against Ghana later this month.
The Leicester City defensive linchpin hurt his knee in a 50-50 challenge against Rennes in the Europa Conference League in the week and was forced to hobble off. If results of his scan reveal he has to be out for a slightly lengthy period, then coach Eguavoen will be forced to name a replacement.
2013 Afcon hero Eddy Onazi is placed on the standby list. Already a hugely controversial selection, it is believed that the coaching crew will bypass Onazi and just call up Bonke who plays more regularly in a mainstream European league.
Since moving to France to play for Ligue 1 outfit FC Lorient this season, Bonke has been in inspired form, helping the team to three wins and one draw in the six games he played thus far. A reliable defensive midfielder, Bonke is fluid and firm with positional discipline and conviction to his play.
Bonke also received rave reviews from fans, critics (like myself) and various other stakeholders for his professional and focused display against Cape Verde in last year’s qualifiers. His absence from the Afcon squad was widely bemoaned
Onazi on the other hand is trying to find his feet in division two football in Saudi Arabia having endured inclement club situations in recent seasons. He last played for Nigeria against England 2018.
The naming of Onazi in the standby list against Ghana was met with bewilderment by many Nigeria fans who felt there were far too many options ahead of Onazi.
Shockingly, coach Eguavoen revealed to the world that he does not know how good (the player he invited) still is and that he was arm-twisted by powerful forces to invite Onazi.
“Whether Onazi is still good and can play at this high level, we don’t know,” said Eguavoen (which I find shocking). “But to pacify everybody, to just make sure there’s harmony here I put him on standby.” He conceded.
Should Ndidi fail the fitness test, naming Bonke as the suitable replacement will not at all be out of place.
This Ghana v Nigeria match is one that gives me much trepidations. The closest I felt to a Super Eagles match build up like this was when Nigeria had to face Argentina in the 2018 World Cup last group stage match. Ghana is not Argentina by any stretch, standards or quality but both teams are long standing rivals of Nigeria. Moreover this double header qualifiers and the Argentina match are both winner-takes-all encounters which raises the tension. Good luck to the Super Eagles on the 25th and 29th of the month.
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