Super Eagles midfielder John Ogu says captain John Mikel Obi has been “missed” in the national team and has thrown his weight behind the decision of head coach Gernot Rohr to recall Obi to the squad ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt.
Obi, 32, missed all of Nigeria’s qualifying games for the 2019 AFCON and last appeared in the colours of the national team nearly one year ago in the 2-1 defeat to Argentina at the 2018 World Cup in Russia leading many to believe his international career was at an end.
However, following what was described as a “productive meeting” between the midfielder and Rohr last month, he was named in the 25-man provisional list released by the German tactician ahead of the AFCON and is currently in the Asaba camp of the Super Eagles where the team are preparing for their tune-up friendly against Zimbabwe on Saturday, June 8, before leaving for Egypt.
And Ogu, speaking by telephone from Asaba on the popular radio show The Hangout on Lagos based Metro 97.7 FM, said the players bore no ill-feeling towards Obi for his long hiatus from the national team insisting that Obi’s experience and trophy-winning knowhow are assets to the national side.
“Everybody is happy that Mikel is back because we have missed him,” Ogu said. “Nobody bears any resentment towards him; he is the captain of the team with so much experience and has won big titles in his career.”
“We are all focused on the Nations Cup and we are preparing for our friendly against Zimbabwe on Saturday.”
The friendly against Zimbabwe is one of two friendlies the Super Eagles will play before the AFCON kicks off with the other being against Senegal in Egypt on the 16th of June.
Rohr is expected to name his final 23-man squad after the Zimbabwe friendly before the team jets off to Egypt on the 9th of June and Ogu says he feels no pressure about the possibility of losing his spot in the team although he concedes that “nobody is too big to be dropped”.
“I don’t feel any pressure in any way about not making the AFCON squad,” the 31-year old midfielder told the show.
“It is an honour to represent my country and if the coach deems me fit to represent my country, I am always ready but nobody is too big to be dropped and everybody is working hard to make the team. The training is intense and nobody is thinking about the identity of the two players to be dropped.
“We are looking forward to the tournament and everybody is doing everything possible to make the country and their families proud and it is a mentality that we want to take to the AFCON.”
On the mood in camp and if the players have set a target of winning the AFCON, Ogu, who is currently a free agent following the expiration of his contract with Israeli side Hapoel Be’er Sheva, revealed that while the players are generally in high spirits, conversations about winning the AFCON were muted as but the players aren’t looking too far ahead at the moment but that with the support of Nigerians the team can triumph in Egypt.
“Asaba is OK, we are all OK and everybody is in camp apart from two players (Ahmed Musa and Shehu Abdullahi who were granted extra days off by Rohr), and we are all working hard and looking forward to the Nations Cup.
“We all know what we are here for but we are not really talking about winning the trophy at this time, we just want to prepare well and stay focused but we believe that we can do it at the Nations Cup with the support of Nigerians and we hope to take the unity and seriousness in camp to the Nations Cup and try to win it.”
The Super Eagles play Zimbabwe in a pre-AFCON friendly at the Stephen Keshi Stadium on Saturday, 8th June after which they depart for Egypt where they play Senegal in a final tune-up game on the 16th of June.
Nigeria have been drawn in Group B alongside Guinea, Madagascar, and Burundi who they face in their opening AFCON game on Saturday, 22nd June.