Three more players from Nigerian domestic league join national team
It has taken a while, but Nigeria national team coach Gernot Rohr finally did some bending by calling up three additional players from the domestic league to join Ikechukwu Ezenwa for an international friendly match against the Corsica Senior National Team later this month.
Under Rohr, the FC Ifeanyi Ubah goalkeeper had been the lone NPFL representative in the Super Eagles squad. Not any more.
After the ruckus raised when the last squad was announced, this will both provide respite for the coach and heighten expectations for the players.
Here are three takeaways from the current squad list:
1. Local players must justify hype
Rohr came under particular fire for not calling up local players in his planned two-game friendly in London during March, with the absence of Stephen Odey serving as a lightening rod.
Such was the cacophony that Rohr's assistant, Salisu Yusuf, was compelled to explain that the local talent just weren't up to the required standards yet.
Yusuf, under whose purview it is to scout and recommend domestic players, has done a good job in picking the most outstanding players in the league.
Odey has 14 goals so far, and his MFM FC teammate Sikiru Olatunbosun has a famed knack for scoring the spectacular.
They will join Akwa United's Alhassan Ibrahim on the national team. Ibrahim leads his club in scoring, and his strikes have helped to pull them off the bottom of the league.
But it is not enough to be picked. Having made the squad, these players must now prove, on the green grass, that all that hype around them was not simply hot air.
It is now in their hands (or feet) to make a strong case for themselves and their colleagues.
2. Young guns have all to play for
From the get go, Rohr has encouraged young players and those with a European upbringing. He called up a number of these players and it will be a big surprise if some of those invitees do not see some action against Corsica.
Based on past antecedent, Rohr will not hesitate to throw any player who stands out into the mix against South Africa in June even though the friendly is more about running the rule over the players.
This will undoubtedly be a stake-your-claim game for the youngsters.
3. Uninvited should be concerned
When a national team coach leaves out some of his top players from a squad announcement in order to try out some new ones, there is not really that much to be worried about.
Usually, it is easy enough for the returnees to come back and reclaim their positions, but that may not quite be the case here.
Rohr has left out the China trio of captain John Mikel Obi and forwards Odion Ighalo and Brown Ideye. Trabzonspor midfielder Ogenyi Onazi has also been rested, along with defender Kenneth Omeruo.
Of the five, only Mikel is a lockdown in the coach's playing team.
For the rest, there is nothing certain. Which is why we should expect all of them to be watching with some consternation wrapped within their excitement if their replacements step up and excel.
John Ogu can do a decent job in midfield. Up front, Olanrewaju Kayode has plundered 21 goals in Austria and Ola Aina is regarded as one of the finest talents out of Chelsea.
These sub-plots should make for engrossing viewing. Popcorn, anyone?
Colin Udoh is a Nigeria football correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ColinUdoh.