Bursaspor of Turkey defender, Abdullahi Shehu and new signing at Benfica of Portugal, Tyronne Ebuehi are in a head-on battle for the lost spot in Nigeria’s starting line-up for their first match at this year’s World Cup, according to expert view from Wednesday’s international friendly against Czech Republic.
While Joel Chukwuma Obi and vice-captain, Eddy Ogenyi Onazi appear to have lost their spots, following their bench roles during Wednesday’s game in Austria, Shehu was back from the start, only to again be replaced by Ebuehi.
It was a repeat of the scenario last Saturday, when Ebuehi got off the bench in place of Shehu at half time of the friendly against England at Wembley Stadium, but appeared to play better in curtail the hosts to a slim 2-1 win.
Observers are now wont to believe that the tussle between Ebuehi and Shehu will go on till Nigeria’s opening match against Croatia on June 16, but every other position in the squad appears taken up.
That might also be so for the left-back’s role, where Bryan Idowu on Wednesday again edged out Elderson Uwa Echiejile, to line out in the back-four along with Francis Odinaka Uzoho in goal, with William Troost-Ekong and Leon Aderemi Balogun in central defence, plus Shehu on the right.
The duo of Joel Obi and Onazi, who failed to sparkle against England, were replaced by John Ugochukwu Ogu and Wilfred Onyinyen Ndidi, who returned after an injury spell, to join team captain, John Mikel Obi in midfield.
Chelsea dazzler, Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi, who scored the lone goal against England, and Odion Jude Ighalo, who got the assist last weekend, led the Eagles’ charge for goals in the game that kicked-off at 2pm Nigeria time.
With the coach, Gernot Rohr not impressed with the Eagles’ 4-3-3 display against England in the first half, he decided to go with the same formation adopted in the second half against England, which brought a new spark into the game.
Rohr said: “We will go for victory that would boost spirit and earn team confidence ahead of our first match in Russia. It would not be an easy pick but we will work hard for it.”
Wednesday’s encounter at Rudolf Tonn Stadium in Rannersdorf, a city in the sub-division of Schwechat, outside Vienna is the third official meeting between both countries.
Nigeria and then Czechoslovakia drew 1-1 in a group phase match at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, with Vizek scoring for the Czechs in the first half and Henry Nwosu equalizing for the Eagles with six minutes left on the clock.
Nigeria forward, Emmanuel Osigwe then had a rocketing effort from a long range free-kick disallowed, as the Eagles went crashing out in the first round.
The Czechs edged their second meeting in Rabat, Morocco on 11th December 1996 2-1 at the King Hassan Cup Tournament.