Ahead of the second encounter with the Indomitable Lions, that might be all Super Eagles boss Gernot Rohr can do to even field a consistent starting 11.
Four days after their last assignment, the national teams of Cameroon and Nigeria will renew their acquaintance during Tuesday’s friendly match in Austria.
The framework is the same, as are the circumstances. Which begs the question: why exactly are we doing this again?
This is the sequel that no one asked for, especially since not even the first was greeted with enthusiasm.
Following the injuries of William Troost-Ekong and Jamilu Collins, the Nigerian squad is also exhausted, which further complicates matters and sheds even more stark light on the lack of players within the Super Eagles squad.
With that in mind, it’s both understandable and downright depressing that little-known Vincent Onovo, based on Hungarian seventh team Ujpest, joined the squad ahead of this resumption.
The 25-year-old fellow defensive midfielder is an unwelcome callback to darker days of the early to mid-2000s, when inadequate friendly (or, at times, even competitive) teams were supplemented by random players whose only claims were proximity to the site and possession of a Nigerian passport.
It’s also rather unnecessary – and downright fun – that he’s been brought into the fold when the main puzzle the coaching staff is trying to solve is the shortage of defenders. Is this a sign of Onovo’s willingness to help the team in any capacity (yes for patriotism!), Or just further proof that no one knows who or what he started with, beyond another warm body?
All this only adds to the feeling of dysfunction and reinforces the feeling that this international window perhaps should have been left empty.
An unpopular proposal that would have been, okay, but is it better?
What are the larger gains that will have been gleaned by the end of this pair of matches?
It was rhetorical; there are obvious downsides, however, including the loss of goodwill on the part of the players themselves, who would almost certainly prefer to rest with sore limbs and tired minds. Why not give them the window, instead of waking them up for this shipwreck? They might have actually thanked the NFF for the consideration.
As it stands, depending on the development of events, the Super Eagles will show up for their second leg against Cameroon with a central defense featuring, in Valentine Ozornwafor, a player who has played a total of eight minutes of football. club last season.
Thankfully, the insensitive and undeniably rusty former U-20 international will have the vast experience of Chidozie Awaziem (barely two years his senior) and another late entrant to Anthony Izuchukwu (zero senior international selection) to guide him through a meet test.
What is the great lesson or revelation that Rohr is supposed to receive here?
Everyone fit and available, none of these three players would start for the national team anyway, so what’s the point of the whole drill?
The lack of a left-back to replace Collins requires a switch to a rear wing system that will require a bit of creativity, perhaps with Moses Simon taking a deeper starting position than in Game 1.
Unfortunately, given that he was the team’s best player in the first game.
One would have to assume that after an exhausting season, people like Kelechi Iheanacho, Paul Onuachu and Wilfred Ndidi shouldn’t start the second time around, then: Peter Olayinka, Terem Moffi and (yet another transplant) Samson Tijani? What then happens to the right rear?
If that’s not obvious, at this point it’s less about giving players a chance to prove themselves than it’s about coming up with a lineup with some underlying consistency or logic … and this ultimately undermines the usefulness of the exercise.