Gernot Rohr has rued the absence of his first choice striker Victor Osimhen for Friday’s friendly against Algeria but believes the 21-year-old’s unavailability could yield a positive for Nigeria in terms of allowing the Super Eagles develop contingency plans to deal with such a scenario in an actual tournament.
Napoli record-buy Osimhen was originally pencilled in to lead Nigeria’s attack against reigning African champions Algeria as well as against Tunisia four days later as the Super Eagles utilise both matches to prepare for their 2021 AFCON qualifying double-header against Sierra Leone in November.
However, local travel restrictions in Naples as a result of an upsurge in coronavirus infections, prevented Osimhen, Nigeria’s top scorer in the qualifiers, from travelling to the team’s Austria camp.
A replacement in the person of giant striker Paul Onuachu was drafted in and along with his Belgium-born Genk teammate Cyriel Dessers who is in line to earn his first international cap, is expected to fill in for Osimhen in both games.
Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho and Eagles captain Ahmed Musa can also play as strikers.
Speaking in a prematch press conference ahead of the Algeria game, Rohr confessed that while “leader of the attack” Osimhen will be missed, the team has adequate replacements who can step up in his place to ensure his absence is not felt too keenly.
Rohr said it was particularly important that the team can show the flexibility to adjust to unforseen circumstances and cover all contingencies in the event such a scenario occurs in a tournament where Osimhen goes missing either through suspension or injury.
“The absence of Osimhen is of course a very important absence,” Rohr said.
“He’s a goal scorer plus he is a leader of the attack, of course he did so well in the last games not only with us but also with his new club and we will miss him of course but that can happen also in a competition so we have to organise a replacement.
“We called Onuachu who is scoring in the moment a lot of goals with his club of Genk, we have also Dessers who is a new player for the first time, we have also Kelechi working hard in training sessions and also the other strikers like Musa and other wingers, we have to handle this ourselves, we regret but we cannot change it.”
Onuachu who was part of Nigeria’s bronze medal winning squad at the 2019 Nations Cup in Egypt has not played for the Super Eagles since coming off the bench in a friendly against Brazil last October although he was an unused substitute in the Eagle’s 2021 AFCON qualifying victory against Benin in November.
Belgian-born Dessers has yet to make his debut for Nigeria since declaring for the 3-time African champions. He was in line to make his debut against Sierra Leone in a 2021 AFCON qualifier in March before the coronavirus pandemic forced the postponement of the fixture.
The Super Eagles play Algeria on Friday, at the Worthersee Stadion in Klagenfurt with another clash against another North African side Tunisia four days later at the Jacques LeMans Arena.
Both games will kickoff at 7:30pm Nigerian time.