Why John Ogu need to convince in rare chance against Algeria
John Ogu is a fairly curious case. Good enough to always get a call-up but deemed not great enough to make it onto the field. It is like that shiny utensil that adorns the kitchen corner, gives it a sparkle but rarely ever gets used.
Here’s a bit of a shocker, Ogu’s last competitive game with the Super Eagles was a seven-minute cameo against Chad in 2015 yet ‘John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel)’ always is seen on the latest list of call-ups since he got his first call-up under Coach Gernot Rohr for the game against Algeria at Uyo. There wasn’t a return for Anderson Esiti or Nosa Igiebor who had been invited to Rohr’s first two games at the helm.
Rohr liked what he saw and Ogu became an ever-present on the Super Eagles’ list of invitees, even getting to play 65 minutes in the following friendly against Senegal after Ogenyi Onazi hobbled off injured.
Pundits and football fans alike thought Ogu was certain to get a look-in, if not start the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa. It was puzzling and equally shocking when the player didn’t make the matchday squad despite the absence of the captain, John Mikel Obi owing to injury.
It became even clearer where Ogu was in the pecking order when Mikel Agu was the one coming off the bench to replace a jaded Obi in the game against Cameroon. Agu looked lacking and lost as he was thrust into the game, the midfield lost control and many wondered why Rohr preferred Agu to Ogu. It, therefore, wasn’t surprising when Agu was signalled to replace Onazi in front of the defence when the Trabzonspor midfielder copped an injury against Zambia. Admittedly, Agu would represent the most identical replacement to Onazi. Ogu does not offer the mobility and tenacity Agu does but his positional awareness and discipline, passing range and calmness in possession would have had better value against the sprightly Zambians.
Injuries to Onazi and Mikel Agu has seen Ogu get a chance in the team especially with sources positive he’d get a start in the match alongside Wilfred Ndidi and Oghenekaro Etebo in the midfield. This represents a rare chance for the 29-year old to justify the clamour from the media for some game time with the Super Eagles.
Fittingly, it is in the reverse fixture of the game he got his first invite he is set to add to his 11 caps. Admittedly a dead-rubber since Nigeria has qualified for the World Cup but it is an opportunity for Ogu to make an impression that gets him on the plane to Russia or even better, gets him an improved position in the midfield pecking order. He needs to be great, bedazzling and deliver a performance that leaves Rohr questioning why he had kept him at arm’s reach put never picked him.
About time the unused shiny utensil cooked some Algerian Merguez!
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