Bursaspsor of Turkey defender, Shehui Abdullahi has apparently lost bragging rights in the choice of Nigeria’s sre-bet as right-back in the Super Eagles’ defence line for the Africa Cup of Nations, as Ola Aina and Chidozie Awaziem have edged ahead of him.
Startling information of the Eagles’ camp in Ismailia indicates that the team might now have a new regular right full back at this year’s AFCON, should the current technical depth being shown by Torino of Italy’s Aina and battling efforts of Rizespor of Turkey’s Awaziem continue this week, as they are both already rated ahead of Abdullahi.
While many soccer fans feel Awaziem should have been dropped from the squad instead of Rotherham United of Eng;and’s in-form Semi Ajayi, the much-maligned player has shown in training with the Eagles why he is in the squad of 23 heading to Egypt 2019, but he is still ranked behind Aina in the right-back’s pecking order.
Aina was dropped from the Eagles’ squad to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but worked his way back while on loan at Torino from Chelsea of England last season, while Awaziem braved all odds to show good form on loan at FC Nantes before returning to FC Porto of Portugal, who then loaned him to Rizespor.
While Aina got the nod from Eagles’ coach, Gernot Rohr to start against Zimbabwe in the past weekend’s friendly, Awaziem got off the bench for the second half, as first signs emerged that they are now both ahead of Abdullahi, who plays for Bursaspor of Turkey.
Abdullahi’s cause was not helped when he was excused from camp due to his desire to celebrate the end of Ramadan fast, as Aina used the rare opportunity to endear himself to Rohr, who also had a closer look at Awaziem and was impressed by the lad on loan from Porto of Portugal.
However, that further explains Rohr’s decision to axe Ajayi, as he is thinking of deploying Abdullahi in a holding midfield role at AFCON 2019, which would take the former Sokoto United and Kano Pillars fair-skinned star back to his days in the Nigerian league, when he played in that role and got a call-up to the home-based Eagles in 2014.
Rohr admitted he had also been looking in the direction of Rotherham United of England utility player, Semi Ajayi to fill in as a defensive midfielder as well, but the return of team captain, John Mikel Obi and the thought about giving Abdullahi a new role jettisoned the in-form English Championship youngster’s spot.
“We had to do away with a defensive midfielder because Obi Mikel came back, he’s well integrated in the group so we had to remove our player Semi Ajayi and also a striker who is lacking confidence but he worked very well.
“It was very difficult to decide but everybody, my staff, we are five people, we agreed about the two names. This decision was very objective, it’s never a good decision to take but we had to do it.
“The experience of Obi Mikel – everybody wanted him to come back. He has been well received by the group as if he has always been with us.
“The reintegration of Obi Mikel has been done very well and he showed against Zimbabwe that he’s on the right way to be very fit.
“I think we have a young team without any stars. There are not many great players like Nigeria had in the 80s or 90s but our young team will be able to come out of the group and to try to go far,” Rohr told DW Kick off.