Super Eagles captain Mikel Obi and Villarreal youngster Samuel Chukwueze have been included in a provisional 25-man squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
The squad was announced on Tuesday by the Nigeria Football Federation via a press release with six other players placed on standby.
Coach Gernot Rohr also included regulars Ahmed Musa, Kenneth Omeruo, Abdullahi Shehu, William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun, Francis Uzoho and Oghenekaro Etebo in the squad which will be pruned down to 23 for the continental showpiece billed for June.
Mikel, who had an impressive half-season with second-tier English club Middlesbrough, has not featured for the Super Eagles since captaining the side to last June’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.
However, according to the NFF, a recent meeting with Rohr in the United Kingdom sealed the former Chelsea midfielder’s return to the team.
Chukwueze, 19, has had a brilliant breakthrough season at LaLiga club Villarreal, playing a key role in their survival. He had been tipped to miss AFCON in order to feature for the Flying Eagles at the FIFA U-20 World Cup but there has apparent been a change of plans.
Regulars Wilfred Ndidi, Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi and Moses Simon are also in the squad, as well as Kelechi Iheanacho who has had a poor season at Leicester City.
Rohr has put on standby six players, among them defenders Ikouwem Utin and Valentine Ozornwafor who have also been named in Nigeria’s final 21 for the FIFA U20 World Cup starting in Poland next week. The head coach explained to thenff.com that he has included the two players knowing the FIFA U20 World Cup will end on 15th June, six days before the first match will be played at the AFCON.
Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup defender Bryan Idowu is also on standby, alongside Portugal-based Mikel Agu and Egypt-based Junior Ajayi, and home-based goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai.
All invited players and officials are to report at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Asaba on Sunday, 2nd June, ahead of the friendly with the Warriors of Zimbabwe at the Stephen Keshi Stadium on Saturday, 8th June.
The team will depart for Egypt on Sunday, 9th June aboard a chartered aircraft, set up a final training camp in the city of Ismailia and tackle Africa’s number one-ranked team Senegal in their final pre-AFCON friendly on Sunday, 16th June.
Nigeria confront Burundi, Guinea and Madagascar in that order in Group B of the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations taking place in four Egyptian cities 21stJune to 19th July.
25 EAGLES FOR AFCON 2019 CAMP
Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Anorthosis Famagusta, Cyprus); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Katsina United); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa)
Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor FC, Turkey); Chidozie Awaziem (Caykur Rizespor, Turkey); William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy); Leon Balogun (Brighton & Hove Albion, England); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Semi Ajayi (Rotherham United, England)
Midfielders: Mikel John Obi (Middlesbrough FC, England); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City FC, England); John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al Nassar FC, Saudi Arabia); Victor Osimhen (Royal Charleroi SC, Belgium); Moses Simon (Levante FC, Spain); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray SK, Turkey); Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua, China); Alexander Iwobi (Arsenal FC, England); Samuel Kalu (Girondins Bordeaux, France); Paul Onuachu (FC Midtjyland, Denmark); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain)
Six On Standby: Theophilus Afelokhai (Enyimba FC); Bryan Idowu (Lokomotiv Moscow, Russia); Ikouwem Utin (Enyimba FC); Mikel Agu (Vitoria Setubal, Portugal); Junior Ajayi (Al Ahly, Egypt); Valentine Ozornwafor (Enyimba FC)