Rohr: Nigeria will cap-tie Rangers starlet Calvin Bassey during World Cup qualifiers

After naming Rangers defender Calvin Bassey in his squad for this month's World Cup qualifying double-header against Central African Republic, Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr says he is "proud and happy" the youngster picked Nigeria.

Bassey, 21, was born in Italy and eligible to represent the Azzurri and England, but has pinned his flag to the Nigeria mast, leaving Rohr more than pleased, and suggesting that he would cap-tie him during this window to secure his services for Nigeria.

"I am so proud of him and happy that he chose Nigeria," the German told ESPN. "That is why it is important to have him quickly because it is one of the last moments we can test new players. That is why he is in our list now."

The Nigeria coach will also be hoping that there are no complications this time. Bassey was also named in the previous squad, for the games in August against Liberia and Cape Verde, but was forced to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19.

"Last time he was in our list but he couldn't come because of a positive COVID test. He was unlucky," Rohr said. "Now it is October and this is the right moment, he is the only new player we have invited."

Bassey's call up is a reward for the former Leicester starlet's good start to his time with the Gers after joining from Leicester City U23s. He made 15 appearances last season, and prior to his call up was on eight appearances this season.

On Thursday, he partnered with fellow Nigeria international Leon Balogun at centreback as Rangers lost 1-0 to Sparta Prague in the UEFA Europa League.

His invitation means that FC Porto defender Zaidu Sanusi misses out on the squad, despite playing in the Champions League, although that is also down to Sanusi's own situation at Porto, according to Rohr.

"When we had to do the list he [Sanusi] didn't play the last five games in the club," the coach explained. "We cannot put three left backs in the list.

"But we know already his qualities and he will come back next time when he is playing in the club. I like this player very much but it's also the opportunity to test a new player."

And that new player, Bassey, offers not only competition but something else that Rohr says is currently lacking in his squad: "There will be big competition but it is good to know that Bassey can also play central defence. We don't have any left-footed central defenders, what we have is only five right-footed central defenders."

Outside of Bassey, Rohr has largely kept faith with the squad that secured two wins in the opening two games of the 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifier last month.

Captain Ahmed Musa, whose record-equalling 100 appearances celebrations was cut short after FIFA nullified two of the games he played in, has a second chance to hit the century mark.

But midfielders Wilfred Ndidi and Oghenekaro Etebo have been ruled out by injury, Etebo for the foreseeable future after tearing a quad muscle in last weekend's 1-1 Premier League draw against Newcastle.

Brentford midfielder Frank Onyeka, who missed the last pair of games, comes in as replacement, with Innocent Bonke also set to make a second appearance alongside Bassey's Gers teammate Joe Aribo.

Nigeria lead the group with six points, and victory in these pair of fixtures could see them all but book their spot as group winners, and on their way to qualification for the playoff phase of the qualifiers, scheduled for March 2022, when Africa's five representatives for Qatar will emerge.

The squad:

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor FC, Turkey); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Abdullahi Shehu (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Calvin Ughelumba (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Kevin Akpoguma (TSG Hoffenheim, Germany)

Midfielders: Frank Onyeka (Brentford FC, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Galsgow Rangers, Scotland); Innocent Bonke (Malmo FF, Sweden); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Samuel Kalu (FC Bordeaux, France); Victor Osimhen (Napoli FC, Italy); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia)