Mikel named in Nigeria’s provisional Afcon 2019 squad

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Mikel Obi

John Mikel Obi has been recalled to the Nigeria squad ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt next month.

The 32-year-old has not played for the Super Eagles since he captained them at last year’s World Cup in Russia.

But he has been included in a 25-man provisional squad after a ‘productive’ meeting with coach Gernot Rohr.

Also returning to the squad is Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho, despite a patchy run of form.

Iheanacho is still searching for his first international goal since scoring against Argentina in November 2017 and was the subject of strong criticism from Rohr earlier this year.

The former Chelsea midfielder Mikel is currently without a club after his short-term contract at Championship club Middlesbrough ended earlier this month.

He impressed on his return to English football scoring once in 19 appearances as Boro missed out on the Championship play-offs.

The majority of the squad that featured on the global stage in Russia are named in Rohr’s team which will be trimmed to 23 after a warm-up game against Zimbabwe on 8 June.

They include the likes of Ahmed Musa, William Troost-Ekong, Chelsea’s Kenneth Omeruo, Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, Stoke City star Oghenekaro Etebo and Brighton defender Leon Balogun.

In-form Villarreal winger Samuel Chukwueze and fellow under-17 World Cup winner Victor Osimhen are both included and will also be looking to make their first tournament appearances at senior level.

However, six players including Al Ahly striker Junior Ajayi and Russia-based Bryan Idowu have been placed on the standby list.

The squad will take part in a training camp in Asaba from 2-9 June, before heading to the Egyptian city of Ismaila for a pre-tournament friendly against Senegal on 16 June.

The three-time champions will play in Group B at the Nations Cup, alongside Guinea, Madagascar and Burundi.

Nigeria’s opening match will be against Burundi on 22 June at the Alexandria Stadium, Alexandria.

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