By James Agberebi:
Former Nigeria international Tijani Babangida has given a thumbs up for the Super Eagles 30-man provisional squad released on Monday, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
The Eagles’ provisional squad released by head coach Gernot Rohr had the likes of skipper Mikel Obi, Odion Ighalo, Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi, Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Wilfred Ndidi and Ogenyi Onazi.
Also on the list are Kelechi Iheanacho, John Ogu, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Francis Uzoho, Dele Ajiboye, Daniel Akpeyi, Shehu Abdullahi, Moses Simon, Oghenekaro Etebo, Elderson Echiejile among others.
Babangida who featured for Nigeria at the France 1998 World Cup, scoring in the 4-1 loss to Denmark in the round of 16, however expressed shock following the inclusion of Junior Lokosa of Kano Pillars and Simeone Nwankwo of Serie A side Crotone.
“All the players that are supposed to be in the list are there,” Babangida told CSN.
“They are the players who played in the qualifiers and also in the friendly games. But my major surprise is the inclusion of Junior Lokosa. He is such a player who scores one or two goals every week and deserves to be called. And he deserves not only to be called but also given the chance to play friendly matches. Because if he plays in the friendly matches, we will know whether he will be in the final list. And with the kind of players around him, he can make it.
“Another player whose inclusion surprised me was Nwankwo. Honestly I don’t know him. I heard he plays in Italy and for him to be invited means he is a good player.”
Babangida however stated he is surprised Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medal winner, Umar Sadiq, who was on loan to Dutch top flight side NAC Breda from AS Roma, did not make the cut.
Sadiq scored five goals in 12 league appearances for NAC Breda in the Dutch first division.
“One surprise for me about a player who was left out in the list is Umar Sadiq,” the Atlanta 1996 Olympic gold medal winner told CSN.
“He is a player I have been watching this season. Gernot Rohr had mentioned him in the past but to my surprise he is not invited.
“Sadiq is a top player. He is tall and has everything you want in a striker and he scores every week in the Dutch league. But to my surprise he did not make the list.”
On whether the current Super Eagles squad is good enough to do well at this year’s World Cup, the former Ajax star said: “With the report from NFF, they are thinking of a team that can become the first African team that can reach the semi-final of the World Cup.
“This is because they have full confidence in the team, they are young and what they have shown in the qualifiers and friendly matches, they are sure the team will do very well in the World Cup. It wouldn’t be easy, but I think the team is on a good course.”