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2022 World Cup Qualifiers: Eguavoen explains decision to invite Bonke & Noble for Ghana clash

14:44 GMT+3 24/03/2022
Augustine Eguavoen
The duo got a late call-up to the Super Eagles camp ahead of Black Stars cracker, and the Nigerian tactician has explained his decision

Coach Augustine Eguavoen has revealed why he invited Innocent Bonke and John Noble for Nigeria’s 2022 World Cup play-off against Ghana.

Lorient midfielder Bonke was called up as a replacement for Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi - who suffered a knee injury in the English Premier League side’s  2-1 defeat to Rennes in a Europa Conference League clash.

Many frowned at the decision because the France-based player was not among the Eagles on the standby list.

Nevertheless, the 56-year-old talked about why he went for the former Malmo FF man instead of Ogenyi Onazi, who represents Saudi Arabia second-tier side Al Adalah.

"I picked Bonke outside the players on standby because Ndidi is a defensive midfielder and there is just a defensive midfielder on the standby list. Bonke has been a player in my heart. So it was a like for like substitute,” Eguavoen told the media.

For Noble - who was part of Nigeria’s team to 2021 Africa Cup of Nations - he was handed a late invite as Sparta Rotterdam’s Maduka Okoye pulled out due to illness.

Also, that choice raised eyebrows as it was alleged that the Enyimba goalkeeper was injured during a Nigeria Professional Football League fixture against Wikki Tourist.

“Noble is another player that has been criticised by the media. But the young man is not injured as reported and he has featured in Enyimba’s last four games,” he continued.

“I picked him based his last four games after my colleague Finidi George recommended him highly. He is not injured. 

“He was actually subbed in their last game against Wikki Tourist FC and medically he was cleared that is why he is with us.”

Nigeria face Ghana at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi, Ghana on Friday evening in the first leg of their Fifa World Cup finals playoff. The return leg is on Tuesday 29 March at Abuja National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria. The winner on aggregate over the two-legged tie will win a spot in the World Cup draw set to be held in Qatar on April 1st.