Nigeria international Chibuzor Okonkwo has urged Enyimba duo John Noble, Anayo Iwuala and Abia Warriors defender Adekunle Adeleke to give a good account of themselves against the Republic of Benin.
Noble was part of the Super Eagles 24-man squad for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against the Squirrels and Lesotho.
His Enyimba teammate Iwuala was a replacement for Almeria forward Sadiq Umar while Adeleke was brought on for Leganes centre-back Kenneth Omeruo, who withdrew from the encounters.
Nigeria will take on Michel Dussuyer’s men at Porto-Novo’s Stade Charles de Gaulle on Saturday and former Bayelsa United and Enugu Rangers right-back, Okonkwo, has praised the quality of the home-based players, advising them to prove their worth when given the chance.
“The players that have been invited from the local league are very good, I have watched them and I know them,” Okonkwo told Goal.
“Now it is time for them to go and show the coach that they are capable of delivering when it matters and prove they are supposed to be in the team.
“They must utilize the opportunity given to them to be part of the Super Eagles by learning from the coaches and must also work hard on their own to improve themselves. I know they will do well if given the chance."
Okonkwo, who has nine caps for the Super Eagles, defended coach Gernot Rohr for inviting only three home-based players to the national team for the qualifiers.
“There should be more NPFL players in the team, but unfortunately our league started late unlike in Europe where their leagues have started for a very long time,” he continued.
“Rohr only invited three or four NPFL players but with time he will include more players from the local league.
“With the calibre of players that have been invited from the local leagues this time, I know he will change his mind and give more chances to the NPFL stars.”
Okonkwo believed Rohr’s side must have learnt lessons from their 4-4 draw against Sierra Leone in Benin City in November, where they squandered a 4-0 lead.
The defender is, therefore, confident the Super Eagles will secure all three points against the Republic of Benin in Porto-Novo, irrespective of the challenges they might encounter there.
“The Sierra Leone game will be a very big lesson for us after surrendering a 4-0 lead to draw 4-4 in Benin City and I believe the players and coaches will be well prepared against Benin Republic," he added.
“I believe we will win in Benin Republic because all our players in Europe are on fire. Kelechi Iheanacho and Victor Osimhen are all doing well. I am counting on that for this game against Benin.
“I don’t think Benin can stop the Super Eagles. The players just need to give their best, concentrate on the game and we will win the match irrespective of the pitch or any challenges they meet in there.”
Victory in the encounter will seal Nigeria’s place at the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon and they will then take on Lesotho in their last qualifying game on Tuesday.