FSV Mainz 05 of Germany defender, Leon Balogun was yesterday included on the list of players invited ahead of the back-to-back 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against the Pharaohs of Egypt this month, even as coach Samson Siasia insists on strict criteria for team selection.
Balogun, who has been in top form for his club since the season was one of the surprise omissions on the list of 42 players announced on Thursday by Siasia. But the coach made a quick fix yesterday as he extended invitation to the right back defender.
As the national camp opens tomorrow with the home-based players, coach Siasia sounded a note of warning to the players, declaring that the squad will be selected based on the spot assessment and not on previous ability.
He said: “Only those who show guts and grit, and ability to adapt to conditions, would be fielded against the Pharaohs.” He insisted that there would be no sentiments or consideration of previous ability as only the training sessions in Kaduna and Alexandria would be used to decide the 18 players on the roll for each game.
“These are two matches that we have to win. We would not look at what someone had done in the past or current form at club level. If you are doing well at your club at the moment and you can’t show ferocious form in training and ability to adapt to the environment, then you would have no place.
“I am excited at the debate that has b e e n generated by the team list. You can never satisfy everyone. The important thing is that we know the players we want for these big games and we have invited them, and we believe in them to deliver.”
The 1994 Africa Cup of Nations gold medallist assured that he has been speaking with all the players on the list and has received assurance that everyone is ready to give his all in both games.
“We continue to ask for the support of every Nigerian as we count down to the two matches. Our people should believe that we can do it, and we will do it.”
Nigeria hosts Egypt in Kaduna on Friday, March 25 and visits the Pharaohs in Alexandria on Tuesday, March 29 in two crucial 2017 Cup of Nations qualifiers. Egypt top the Group G table with six points, two more than the Eagles who are in second place.