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Why I invited Onazi for Ghana clash despite my doubts — Eguavoen

SUPER Eagles interim head coach Austin Eguavoen has given his reason for including Ogenyi Onazi in his squad for the Qatar 2022 World Cup playoffs against Ghana.

Eguavoen named a squad of 32 players for the two-legged tie, with Onazi’s inclusion raising eyebrows because the midfielder has not played for the Super Eagles in over three years.

Onazi’s last Nigeria appearance was in August 2018 against Seychelles and he has been a journeyman around the lower reaches of Europe since leaving Trabzonspor in January 2020.

Yet, he is among the seven standby players in the 32-man squad, along with Chidozie Awaziem, Jamilu Collins, Chidera Ejuke, Taiwo Awoniyi, Paul Onuachu, and Peter Olayinka.

Onazi, 29, only recently signed for Saudi Arabian second-tier club Al Adalah and Eguavoen hinted that he was pressured into naming the midfielder in his squad.

“The first game is on May 25, there are still one or two (club) games to be played before that game proper so when I spoke with my guys, yes Ogenyi [Onazi] is a good player,” Eguavoen was quoted in various reports as having told some journalists.

“Whether he’s still good and can play at that level we don’t know but to pacify everybody, to just make sure there’s harmony here I put him on standby. He’s on standby, but again I have the final say. Like I said before, I have my plan and it’s close to my chest.”

Former Lazio star Onazi himself reacted to his shock invitation, dismissing the concerns of Nigerians who questioned his call-up.

“Personally, I don’t listen to what they write online. I’m still on the reserve list, not yet on the main list so we can’t tell what’s going to happen. Let’s keep it that way and then we’ll see what’s going to happen,” he said.

“As far as I’m concerned, football in this present situation now – it doesn’t matter if you’re playing in Manchester United or you’re playing in Kazakhstan or wherever. You’re not taking your club to go and play in the national team, you’re taking your individual skill and ability to join with your fellow players and make a team.”

The first leg of the playoffs is scheduled for Cape Coast on 25 March and the second leg four days later in Abuja.

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Naija Times