Ex-internationals Nduka Ugbade and Emmanuel Babayaro on Wednesday praised Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr for the calibre of players he invited for the October 7 Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier against Zambia in Uyo.
In separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria, Tunisia ‘94 Africa Cup of Nations winner Ugbade and Atlanta ‘96 Olympic Games gold medallist Babayaro said the players deserved their call-ups.
Former Nigeria defender Ugbade commended the inclusion of Leon Balogun, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses in the squad.
However, the former Golden Eaglets assistant coach warned the Eagles, who lead Group B on 10 points, against complacency in the clash against Chipolopolo, who are second on seven points.
Ugbade said, “I was particularly worried, given Moses’ recent performance for Nigeria and how important he has become to the national team.
“Moses has missed too many recent games and the Eagles suffered without him. I can’t remember the last time he had a poor game.
“It will be interesting to see him again combine well with Odion Ighalo, who also likes to dart into the wing, which will keep Zambian defenders busy all through the game.”
He added, “He (Mikel) scores the odd goals and his contribution will be massive, while Balogun is another player the Eagles cannot afford to do without against Zambia.
“His energy and probing runs deep from the Nigerian end of the pitch against Cameroon was exciting to see and he could be a genuine threat to Zambia, especially from dead-ball situations.He brings out the best in Troost-Ekong.”
Former Nigeria goalkeeper Babayaro said the inclusion of Hull City’s Ola Aina and Akwa United duo Ifeanyi Ifeanyi and Afeez Aremu in the 23-man squad against Zambia was a welcome development.
He said, “The major surprise is the exclusion of Dele Alampasu and full back Tyronne Ebuehi from the main list.
“In my opinion, Aina has an edge over Ebuehi because of his physical style of play, an area where Ebuehi has yet to convince Rohr, although he is technically sound and extremely quick in turning defence into attack.
“Even though Rohr still views Shehu Abdullahi as his first-choice right-back, I think Aina will indeed give Abdullahi a strong fight for the team’s right back position.”
He hailed the return of Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi because of his creativity.
“It will indeed be an uphill task for the Zambians to pin the skillful player down to a position, as he is used to drifting wide every now and then,” Babayaro said.