The call-up list by the Super Eagles for 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Lesotho and Zimbabwe later this month was again late in getting to the public as has been the case recently.
But what was even more glaring from Jose Peseiro latest squad list was that the Super Eagles coach does not read much into the current form of the players he calls up.
He has rather put out his neck for reputation and loyalty to the players he has been working with whether o not they are performing regularly at their clubs.
If not, Antwerp midfielder Alhassan Yusuf and Jerome Akor, who has been banging the goals in the French Ligue 1, ought to be part of the group to begin Nigeria’s quest to feature at the 2026 FIFA World Cup to be hosted by the USA, Canada and Mexico.
Last season, Alhassan was one of the first names on the Antwerp first-team sheet as they got off to a flying start in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League by winning their first nine games.
He was rewarded with a Player of the Month Award by his appreciative employers as a result.
An ankle injury, which took too long to heal, will later set him back before he returned to help his club achieve a league and cup double.
Last month, he regained his place on the starting XI when he celebrated his first UEFA Champions League start with a well-taken goal against FC Porto.
He has since been an ever-present in his team’s last four matches, including a reverse Champions League tie at Porto, where he posted a decent 90 minutes display.
He even got a phone call from Mr Peseiro in the process, but eventually not a deserved invitation to the Super Eagles.
Instead, the Eagles coach has again opted for Joe Aribo to salvage a threadbare midfield that has struggled to bring out the best from one of the most feared attack around the world.
Aribo has been consigned to the subs’ bench in four of his team’s last five matches, playing a mere 21 minutes against Birmingham City on October 28.
The midfielder was equally anonymous in last month’s friendlies against Saudi Arabia and Mozambique in Portugal.
In the case of Montpellier striker Akor, Peseiro has overlooked his seven goals in Ligue 1 this past month (and that’s not to mention 15 goals in Norway this year) to settle for Sadiq Umar, who has yet to hit the back of the net since he recovered from a serious ACL injury.
Sadiq failed to justify his Eagles recall with a poor display against Mozambique in last month’s friendly in Portugal.
The striker now mainly starts from the bench at Real Sociedad – 1 minute vs Atletico Madrid;6 minutes vs Mallorca;10 minutes vs Rayo Vallecano and was unused sub vs Barcelona.
He got his biggest chance to shine with the Super Eagles at the delayed 2021 AFCON in Cameroon and he did not take it.
The absence of star striker Victor Osimhen due to injury and the uncertainties surrounding the fitness of Taiwo Awoniyi ought to at least have made enough room for another centre-forward like Akor to be part of the latest Super Eagles squad.
The former Flying Eagles star Class of 2019 brings a directness, confidence as well as awesome aerial power that would have added a lot more value to a strike force already robbed of the class and goals of Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze.
The matches against Lesotho and Zimbabwe will serve as part of the preparations for the 2023 AFCON in January, which Peseiro has at every opportunity boasted Nigeria will win.
The omission of players on good form like Alhassan and Akor questions the seriousness behind the Super Eagles campaign hashtag of #LetsDoItAgain for the next AFCON.