Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has revealed the moment that he decided to drop Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho and former Arsenal defender Semilogo Ajayi from the squad that will represent Nigeria at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) this summer in Egypt.
The German tactician explained that the decision to drop Iheanacho and Ajayi was taken ahead of the friendly game against Zimbabwe which took place at the Stephen Keshi stadium on Saturday night in Asaba, Nigeria. Gernot Rohr said that he had been monitoring the performance of Nigeria players before they stepped foot in Asaba camp.
While Nigerian fans had been expecting the former Bayern Munich defender to judge the players’ performances in the friendly game and use that as a basis to drop certain individuals ahead of the African Cup of Nations. Rohr dismissed this claim adding that it was difficult for him to rate the players because of the rainy conditions in the friendly vs Zimbabwe.
Ahead of the friendly, Rohr disclosed that he was dropping a striker and a midfielder, and Iheanacho and Ajayi fall into the category of players. “You know that everybody wants to come to Egypt and there are still two players to drop, so the competition is open and everybody wants to be in the final 23-man squad,” Rohr was quoted by AOIFootball.
“It will be very difficult for me and my staff to choose the final 23 because everybody is doing so well.” “We have a lot of strikers, which is good. Other teams are searching for center-forwards and we have three of them, one of them has to go. I could drop one striker and one midfielder,” he added.
However after the game, Rohr explained that the weather conditions were not good enough to asses the player’s performances. ”You cannot judge from one game in these conditions. We already have our opinion before the match because we observed them throughout the season and we saw what they did and also all week in the training sessions,” Rohr said post-match.
”We had seven training sessions to see the fitness, confidence of the players. It’s not this match alone that will give us a decision on the two players we have to drop.”
As many as seven players classed as offensive players were given a run-out against Zimbabwe, but Rohr has stressed that won’t be the case at the Africa Cup of Nations.”You see that we played with seven strikers, all the strikers who deserve to play. We started with 3 strikers, the others came in.
”Normally in a match you cannot bring so many strikers. We played with a lot of offensive players. We have Chukwueze, Kalu, Henry, Osimhen, Paul, Simon also. The choice of dropping two players is really difficult for me,” the former Bayern Munich defender concluded. The Super Eagles would take on Senegal in a friendly before the AFCON where they have been drawn in Group B against Burundi, Madagascar and Guinea.