The Super Eagles will open their 2014 World Cup campaign against Namibia and Malawi, before hosting Rwanda in a 2013 Africa Cup of Nations tie and coach Stephen Keshi has released the list of players to execute these matches.
Premier League stars John Obi Mikel, Taye Taiwo, Peter Odemwingie and Blackburn Rovers goal-machine Yakubu Aiyegbeni were left out of Stephen Keshi’s squad for next month’s series of qualifiers.
Mikel has yet to play for Nigeria since Keshi took charge in November but the coach remains adamant the Chelsea star is still part of his plans.
“Mikel is in my plans but we will give other players an opportunity as well,” said Keshi on Thursday.
“We should focus on preparation instead of those who didn’t make the squad”
“We need to give players from the local league a chance. After all, how many knew about such players as Uche Kalu, Ejike Uzoenyi or Godfrey Oboabona before now?”
Mikel’s situation is unusual since a midfielder who could start Saturday’s Uefa Champions League final against Bayern Munich in Germany has not made his national squad for World Cup and Nations Cup qualifiers.
“The door is not closed on anyone,” Keshi told BBC Sport.
“We should focus on preparation instead of those who didn’t make the squad.”
Austin Ejide, Fengor Ogude, Efe Ambrose, Elderson Echiejile and John Utaka have all been recalled in a group of 11 overseas-based players, which also features Wigan Athletic forward Victor Moses.
In-form Montpellier winger Utaka is making his first return to the Super Eagles squad since the team’s first-round exit at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
“Utaka, Aluko and Elderson have been in great form for their clubs and we are confident they’ll translate their club form to the national side,” added the captain of Nigeria’s 1982 Nations Cup-winning side.
Nigeria will name another squad of 18 players from the domestic league, who are due to fly out this weekend for a friendly in Peru.
The Super Eagles host Namibia on 3 June in Calabar, before travelling to Malawi the following weekend for another qualifier.
On the weekend of 15-17 June, Nigeria entertain Rwanda as the sides contest the second leg of a first round Nations Cup tie, whose opening tie ended goalless in February.
Keshi was appointed coach of Nigeria after previous incumbent Samson Siasia failed to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup.
Overseas-based players called up by Nigeria
Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Lille, France), Austin Ejide (Petach Tikva, Israel)
Defenders: Joseph Yobo (Fenerbache, Turkey), Efe Ambrose (Ashdod, Israel), Elderson Echiejile (Sporting Braga, Portugal)
Midfielders: Fengor Ogude (Valrenga, Norway)
Forwards: Ike Uche (Granada, Spain), Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow ,Russia), Sone Aluko (Rangers, Scotland), John Utaka (Montpellier, France), Victor Moses (Wigan Athletic, England)