Ogenyi Onazi, the Trabzonspor of Turkey midfielder has been dropped as Super Eagles’ assistant captain.
Our camp source hinted that national team manager, Gernot Rohr is not disposed to the appointment of a vice-captain, saying the idea was counterproductive to his plans ahead of the Mundial.
“Rohr has resolved to cancel the position of vice-captain in the Super Eagles as it is believed to be one of the issues militating against the team.
“Mikel remains is the captain and have been told to hand over the captain’s band to the most senior player on the pitch whenever he is being substituted.
“By this pronouncement, Onazi ceased to be Super Eagles’ vice-captain from now on,” the source revealed.
It was also gathered that due to Onazi attitude in camp, Mikel has asked for the player to be dropped but the Nigeria Football Federation fears a backlash as some players are believed to be loyal to him.
Onazi, according to our source may miss the first group game against Croatia as the technical crew would claim an injury prevented him from the tie.
Meanwhile, the Super Eagles will fly out of their Avita Resort in Bad Tatzmannsdorf, Austria to Russia today for the 21st FIFA World Cup finals – their sixth appearance in seven finals since making a debut in the USA in 1994.
Since emerging from so-called ‘Group of Death’ in the African qualifying series, becoming the first African team to reach the finals in Russia, the Eagles have played against Argentina, Poland, Serbia, DR Congo, England and Czech Republic in friendlies, winning two, drawing one and losing three.
Victories over two –time world champions, Argentina (finalists at the last finals in Brazil) and Poland were followed by defeat by Serbia, a draw with the Democratic Republic of Congo and losses to England and the Czech Republic.
Coach Gernot Rohr would be the first to admit that the statistics from these friendly encounters were not head –turning, but he insisted at the weekend, just as Captain Mikel Obi did few days earlier, that the underdog tag that had come as a result suit the three-time African champions nicely.
“We are okay with the garb of the underdog. But the defeats have done something for us – we have our heads firmly on our shoulders and we are focused.
“Together, we have reviewed the matches and learnt so many lessons. We will approach the World Cup matches differently,” said Rohr.
Nigeria’s first match is against Croatia on Saturday, with the Eagles logging a balanced record of having won their opening match at the World Cup on two occasions, drawn once and lost twice. On the three occasions they have not lost their opening match (1994, 1998, 2014), the Eagles had progressed to the Round of 16.
An underwhelming recent record, being the lowest –ranked team in Group D and the lowest –ranked African team in the finals, plus a recent tag by FIFA as mere ‘perennial World Cup appearance –makers’ all tend to project the Eagles as a side waiting to be rolled over.
That would be the biggest mistake of the so-called big teams.
Nigeria’s senior team has the knack for coming to the party when least expected. Lumped in a fiery assembly with Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia in the African qualifying race, the Eagles made short work of the pool, emerging runaway winners with a match to spare, and with the distinction of hammering African champions, Cameroon 4-0 in Uyo.