2022 World Cup: Nigeria announce expanded squad for qualifiers

By Oluwashina OkelejiSports Writer, Nigeria
Gernot Rohr
Gernot Rohr has conceded that he might need to use some of Nigeria's lesser-known players

Nigeria have named an expanded 30-man squad for September's 2022 World Cup qualifiers, to cover for players who may not be allowed to leave England.

Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has included the extra players amidst an ongoing row over whether players based in the Premier League will be released from their clubs.

Current UK rules designed to limit the spread of coronavirus mean that countries on the British "red list" - including several African nations - are unable to call on players based in the Premier League for international matches.

The escalating row over quarantine restrictions and the lack of exemptions for players returning from red‑zone countries led to African football's governing body Caf to ask the UK government to exempt African international footballers and allow them to travel to next week's World Cup qualifiers.

Several of Nigeria's key players are based in England

Nigeria will host Liberia in their Group C opener on 3 September in Lagos, but Rohr is unsure of his final squad for the trip to Cape Verde where they will face the Blue Sharks in Mindelo, four days later.

The three-time African champions have eight UK-based players - six in the Premier League and two from Scotland - in the latest squad.

“The situation with UK-based players, who may not be heading to Cape Verde (which is on the red list of the British Government with regards to the global coronavirus pandemic) has enlarged the roster,” the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) said in a statement.

“Should the situation remain unchanged, the eight UK-based players on the list would head back to base after the clash with Liberia in Lagos on Friday.”

The Super Eagles has featured in six of the past seven World Cup finals and the team strongly depends on notable Premier League stars like Leicester City duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi, Watford pair of Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfred Troost-Ekong, as well as Everton’s Alex Iwobi and Brentford midfielder Frank Onyeka to seal a spot in Qatar.

There is a return for South Africa-based goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, defenders Kenneth Omeruo and Kevin Akpoguma in the original 23-man list.

The opening group matches of Africa's qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup were originally scheduled for June, but postponed due to the global pandemic.

Nigeria's 30-man squad in full

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (APOEL Nicosia, Cyprus); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem (Boavista, Portugal); Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Rangers, Scotland); William Ekong (Watford, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino, Italy); Jamilu Collins (Padeborn, Germany); Abdullahi Shehu (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Zaidu Sanusi (Porto, Portugal); Kevin Akpoguma (Hoffenheim, Germany)

Midfielders: Oghenekaro Etebo (Watford, England); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Frank Onyeka (Brentford, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Rangers, Scotland)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Alex Iwobi (Everton, England); Samuel Kalu (Bordeaux, France); Victor Osimhen (Napoli, Italy); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Moses Simon (Nantes, France); Paul Onuachu (Genk, Belgium)

Seven standby for UK-based players: Terem Moffi (Lorient, France); Henry Onyekuru (Olympiacos, Greece); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Innocent Bonke (Malmo FF, Sweden); Valentine Ozornwafor (Charleroi, Belgium); Tyronne Ebuehi (Venezia, Italy); Kingsley Michael (Bologna, Italy)