Super Eagles call up a huge relief for unknown striker Abraham Marcus

Abraham Marcus was only promoted to the Feirense first team last October, and scored on his debut against Estoril. Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

Abraham Marcus of Portuguese side Feirense CD is the latest surprise call up by Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr, and no-one was more surprised by his inclusion than the player himself.

Marcus's call up is a relative shock to football followers in Nigeria, who had barely heard of the Liga Portugal 2 forward prior to his inclusion in Rohr's provisional 31-man squad for a friendly against Cameroon on June 4 in Austria.

Marcus only broke into the first team of Feirense -- the club owned by Nigerian businessman Kunle Soname -- in October. He had previously been with the Under-23s after joining the club from NPFL side Remo Stars, where he scored seven goals in 23 appearances.

"I told my late dad before he passed that any time I step foot in Europe and have a good season, I will surely make it to the national team," Marcus told ESPN.

"My dad loved football and he always wanted to see me in the Super Eagles. So when I saw my name on the list, the first thing I did was to go straight to the bathroom to relieve myself. I did not believe it.

"I looked at the name again to make sure there was no mistake, and then I called my boss to ask him if this was really me or somebody else.

"Even when he said it was me, I still did not quite believe it and then a few minutes later, my phone started blowing up. I think that was when I finally believed that it was me.

"I was very, very excited when I saw my name on the list. It is a dream come true."

His first senior league game was against Estoril. He came on as a substitute with fewer than 20 minutes to go and Feirense trailing 2-3. With almost the last kick of the game, he drew his side level.

Marcus has since taken his tally to 11 goals and two assists from 24 appearances. He has earned seven player of the match awards and one player of the month award.

"Having a chance to play football is just a joy for me. My main focus is just to score goals. Any time I am on the pitch, I just try to do what the coach tells me so I can score," he said.

The 21-year-old is looking forward to bringing that mentality to the national team even if he is still feeling giddy about his invitation.

"It is a privilege to play with the big players in Nigeria like Ahmed Musa, Alex Iwobi, Peter Etebo, Victor Osimhen. I cannot wait to meet everyone," he said.

Rohr has recalled FC Lorient's Terem Moffi and UD Almeria's Sadiq Umar. Both players were called up for the last round of Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, but were forced to withdraw due to coronavirus travel restrictions in France and Spain, respectively.

The veteran defender Leon Balogun is missing from the squad. Team officials told ESPN his omission is due to injury.

But there are enough bodies to cover at the back, led by deputy captain William Troost-Ekong. At the front, Rohr has picked all his available, in-form forwards, including Crotone's Simeon Nwankwo and Genk's Paul Onuachu.

The squad is expected to be pruned to a more manageable 23 before the team departs for Austria.

"At the moment, I don't know which player will not be coming with us to Austria. When we have our training, then we know who we will select," said Rohr.

Nigeria will be looking to bounce back after losing to Algeria in their last friendly and Cameroon provide as suitable a test as any. The Indomitable Lions, five-times African champions, won three of those by beating the Super Eagles in the Finals.

The Super Eagles have had the best of their recent encounters, defeating the Lions 4-0 in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier and then drawing 1-1 in Yaounde, before handing them a 3-2 round of 16 defeat at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations on their way to bronze medal in Egypt.

Nigeria preliminary squad

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (APOEL Nicosia, Cyprus); John Noble (Enyimba FC); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Heartland FC).

Defenders: Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Kevin Akpoguma (Hoffenheim, Germany); Chidozie Awaziem (FC Boavista, Portugal); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Fulham FC, England); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal); Tyronne Ebuehi (FC Twente, The Netherlands); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England).

Midfielders: Oghenekaro Etebo (Galatasaray FC, Turkey); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Abdullahi Shehu (Omonia Nicosa, Cyprus); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Abraham Marcus (CD Feirense, Portugal).

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Kano Pillars FC); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Sadiq Umar (Almeria FC, Spain); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Victor Osimhen (Napoli FC, Italy); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray FC, Turkey); Anayo Iwuala (Enyimba FC); Peter Olayinka (Slavia Praha, Czech Republic); Terem Moffi (FC Lorient, France); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium); Simy Nwankwo (Crotone FC, Italy).