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Lobi Stars begin continental campaign with loss

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Oshoala: No team can rival Nigeria at AWCON

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Has Gernot Rohr finally identified his best Super Eagles squad?

Gernot Rohr's latest Super Eagles squad ahead of the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations double-header against Libya indicates that the German coach is finally confident in the options available to him.

The German coach is having to do without captain John Obi Mikel, who's sidelined by injury, but his almost exclusively stuck with the players who have served under him in recent months.

Perhaps this is the Super Eagles reaping the rewards of managerial stability, with Rohr holding the fort with limited off-field distractions over the last 26 months, a rarity in Nigerian football in recent times.

17 of the current squad were present at the World Cup in Russia, with Ola Aina, Semi Ajayi, Jamilu Collins, Moses Simon, Henry Onyekuru, Isaac Success and Samuel Kalu the only new faces.

Francis Uzoho, Daniel Akpeyi and Ikechukwu Ezenwa have remained the undisputed preferred goalkeepers for almost a year, a run which stretches back to November 2017.

Rohr has equally kept things consistent at the back, with the exception of new entrants Collins and Ajayi. Both players were introduced to the group in September, while Abdullahi Shehu returns after missing the Seychelles match with injury.

A decision to stick to with those core of defenders means the likes of Stephen Eze, Uche Agbo, Musa Muhammed, Sincere Seth and Ikouwem Udoh remain on the outside looking in.

In midfield, in the continued absence of Mikel, the weight of expectation falls on Ogenyi Onazi and John Ogu to provide leadership, particularly with Joel Obi still overlooked.

Kelechi Nwakali, tipped as a potential successor to Mikel, has been cut from the latest selection after making his international debut against Liberia in a friendly in September.

At 20, and clearly still regarded as a rookie at international level, Nwakali should return in due time to complement Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi and Oghenekaro Etebo, but Rohr doesn't appear to believe he's ready just yet.

The coach has made the most obvious selections in attack, sticking with the experienced core of the group: Ahmed Musa, Odion Ighalo, Simon and Kelechi Iheanacho.

Simon, who was hugely missed at the World Cup due to his high work rate and defensive shift, increases Rohr's options from the wide areas, while Ighalo's position could be further threatened with the recall of the physically imposing Success.

While Kalu and Onyekuru continue to vie for the right to be considered Victor Moses's long-term replacement, Success's inclusion perhaps is the most heartwarming.

For all his obvious talent and phenomenal goalscoring record at junior level, the 22-year-old Watford forward has managed just a solitary international appearance so far, a situation that can be largely pinned on his off-field struggles.

Impressively Success has rolled up his sleeves and turned a new corner this season, notably delivering an eye-catching performance in the Carabao Cup against Tottenham Hotspur.

He now finds himself in the squad at the expense of Simy Nwankwo.

Rohr's decision to stick with a squad largely dominated by talented youngsters - 24.4 is the team's present average age - suggests that he's content with the options at his disposal and that, finally, he believes he has identified the squad to take Nigeria back to the pinnacle of the African game.

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