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AFCON qualifiers: Top five Nigeria must start against Sierra Leone

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After Friday’s collapse in Benin, the German tactician must keep faith in these five players in the reverse fixture in Freetown

Friday’s 4-4 draw at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium has set things up for an entertaining game at the National Stadium.

Given how Gernot Rohr’s troops somehow contrived to blow away a 4-0 lead, the coach isn’t likely to make wholesale changes on Tuesday. Rather, the 67-year-old may rely on a core of players to pick from the encounter in Benin.

In this feature, Goal consider five names that should play from the off against the Leone Stars as the African giants seek to set the record straight.

Leon Balogun

Despite his withdrawal on the hour in the first fixture, Rohr has confirmed Balogun is fit to play in Sierra Leone and the centre-back should be thrown in from the off.


Indeed, it made for interesting observation to see that the visitors’ late three goals came after the Rangers defender’s withdrawal on the hour.

He’s been imperious since returning to the national team in October, and Balogun has to start in Freetown.

Zaidu Sanusi

Admittedly, the Porto wide defender was beyond culpable in Sierra Leone’s equalizer — where he pulled out of a 50-50 seconds before the leveller — still, Sanusi’s impetus going forward makes him hard to drop particularly as it seems the coach mostly utilises a defensive full-back on the other flank.

The left-back assisted Victor Osimhen’s strike and was particularly dangerous when he pushed forward.


Unless the Nigeria boss changes his modus operandi, Sanusi ought to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Chidozie Awaziem

While many Nigerians would naturally select Ola Aina at right-back, there’s some logic to Rohr’s decision to opt for a more conservative option to give the side balance due to Sanusi’s attacking nature.

However, what has befuddled observers has been the manager’s preference of Kevin Akpoguma despite a slow start to his Super Eagles career.

Awaziem may not be everyone’s cup of tea but he offers a lot more in defence and on the occasions he goes forward than Akpoguma, from what we all have seen from the Hoffenheim player so far.


Alex Iwobi

It’s simple, Iwobi is a shoo-in to start given how much the Nigeria side depend on him for link-up and ball progression.

He even netted twice on Friday to surprise observers who have always called on him to be hungrier for the shiny stats that instantly catch the eye.

Getting the Everton man to score consistently may be far-fetched but Friday at least showed he can get in on the act from time to time.

Samuel Chukwueze

In fairness, Kelechi Iheanacho ran the Villarreal man close to make this list, especially as Rohr may persist with the 4-4-2 tactic that’s been utilised recently.


Still, Chukwueze’s directness on the ball was hugely crucial to Nigeria’s bright start on Friday before the eventual collapse and he’ll be hugely important in Freetown.

The wide attacker’s solo goal in Benin flaunted how good he can be with the ball and it’ll be hard to leave him out of the return game, particularly as the young attacker’s fit to play following a knock. (GOAL)


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