Poland Friendly: Mikel’s Absence Offers Ogu, Joel Obi Chance To Exhale

By Godwin Aikigbe

John Mikel Obi’s absence from Friday’s international friendly with Poland could be the chance Joel Obi and John Obi needed to cement spots on the Super Eagles mainstream.

The Tiajin Teda midfielder has been ruled out of the clash starting 8.45pm at Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw, due to renewal of his work permit in China.

Joel Obi, 26, had been touted as successor to Austin Jay-Jay Okocha in Super Eagles midfield, but the Torino player has largely been undone by a spate of injuries.

He made his Nigeria debut on 9 February 2011 in a friendly game with Sierra Leone in Lagos and started the next 11 games in a row for the Eagles before getting injured near the end of 2012. He was named in the preliminary squad for the 2014 World Cup.

The former Inter Milan player that played several years on loan at Parma is currently enjoying a rich vein of form at Torino, where he has four goals in 18 matches in the current Serie A campaign, operating mainly on the left side of the midfield.

The injury that has blighted his international career reared its ugly head ahead of Friday’s confrontation with Poland, but he has been declared fit to play in the game by Coach Salisu Yusuf.

John Ogu

John Ogu could be handed a starting role in the absence of Mikel against Poland on Friday. The presence of Leicester City’s Wilfred and Ogenyi Onazi had seen the Hapoel Beer Sheva midfielder make do with bit-part role in the last couple of years despite helping his club to the Israeli Ligat ah AL as many times.

Known for his rocket shots, the 29 –year-old has scored twice on 16 outings with the team since making his debut in March 2013,  when he  was called up for 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Kenya that ended 1–1. He was used as a substitute to replace an injured Victor Moses.

Ogu scored his first international goal against Mexico in a friendly game, which took place at the Reliant Stadium in Houston on 31 May 2013.

His highest game turnover was under Stephen Keshi, who named him as one of 23 players to participate in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and subsequent friendly matches against Bolivia and South Africa in 2015.

Meanwhile, the number of players in the Super Eagles camp preparatory to Friday’s game has increased to 21 following the arrival of Nantes defender, Chidozie Awaziem and Leicester City duo, Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho on Tuesday evening.

Players in camp: Chidozie Awaziem, Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Odion Ighalo, Ogenyi Onazi, Uche Agbo, Ahmed Musa, WilliamTroost Ekong, Alex Iwobi, Ola Aina, Tyronne Ebuehi, Brian Idowu, Leon Balogun, Francis Uzoho, Elderson Echiejile, Stephen Eze, Joel Obi, Shehu Abdullahi, John Ogu, Moses Simon, Kenneth Omeruo.

Nigeria are expected to play Serbia at The Hive Stadium four days later in another 2018 World Cup tune-up game.