World Cup: Pinnick sweats over release of Eagles stars


… as the Premier League arrests 60 qualifying players

Nigeria Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick said the federation was working on a plan B after the English Premier League shockingly announced they would not release league players for the Cup qualifiers. World 2022 next month against Liberia and Cape Verde, reports PUNCH Sports Extra.

The Premier League said on Tuesday its clubs would not release any players for a trip to so-called red-list countries during the international hiatus in September, a cheeky rejection of the protocol that sets up an important showdown with the sport’s governing body , FIFA.

The move, reflecting the lingering public health concerns linked to the coronavirus pandemic, will affect around 60 Premier League players from the 26 countries currently on the UK government’s red list. The UK government is warning residents that they “should not travel” to any of the countries on the list; those who face strict quarantine conditions or outright exclusion if they attempt to return to Britain.

The decision to retain players will affect World Cup qualifying matches for national teams from more than two dozen countries, including Nigeria, Argentina, Brazil and the rest of South America, as well as those in coronavirus hotspots like Egypt, Mexico and Turkey. It also affects 19 of the 20 Premier League clubs, potentially affecting players like Liverpool’s Alisson and Roberto Firmino (Brazil) and Mohamed Salah (Egypt); Brazilian Manchester City stars Fernandinho, Ederson and Gabriel Jesus; Manchester United’s Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani; and Colombians like Yerry Mina (Everton) and Davinson Sánchez (Tottenham).

This will mean that seven Nigerian stars, namely William Troost-Ekong, Oghenekaro Etebo and Emmanuel Dennis (Watford); Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City); Alex Iwobi (Everton) and Frank Onyeka (Brentford) will not be able to play against Cape Verde at Praia on September 7, although they are free to play at home in Nigeria against Liberia three days earlier, Nigeria did not. not being on the Red List.

“I’m seriously working on various possibilities to ensure that our players are released by their clubs for games,” Pinnick told PUNCH Sports Extra only.

The Super Eagles are drawn in Group C alongside Cape Verde, Central African Republic and Liberia.

But Pinnick and Eagles coach Gernot Rohr faces a huge headache to find replacements for England-based players with other big European leagues likely to take the Premier League position.

Within hours, Spain’s top league LaLiga released a statement saying it would support one of its teams who decide to refuse to release players traveling to South America. He said the number of players affected – currently 25 at 13 clubs – is expected to increase as countries announced their national squad rosters this week.

The Premier League said its decision was the result of FIFA failing to extend a rule that allowed clubs to detain players if they were required to self-quarantine when they returned to their clubs. Forcing teams to release players and then quarantine, sometimes for up to 10 days upon their return, has created a situation that has affected league play and fair competition, clubs and the Premier League have argued.

“If it was necessary to quarantine on the return of Red List countries, not only the well-being and fitness of the players would be significantly affected, but they would also be unavailable to prepare and play in two rounds of the match. of the Premier League, a matchday of UEFA club competition and the third round of the EFL Cup, ”the Premier League said in a statement.

Even after those quarantines, the clubs said, then the players would need more time to get back into shape.

La Liga officials in Spain have raised similar concerns and have pledged to defend any team punished for refusing to release players. “LaLiga will take appropriate legal action as this change will affect the availability of players to play for their clubs, to the clear detriment of the integrity of the competition,” the league said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Eagles wingers Samuel Chukwueze and Moses Simon are major doubts for the games against Liberia and Cape Verde.

Coach Gernot Rohr is expected to announce his squad list for qualifying this week.

Villarreal’s Chukwueze has been out of action since May and is recovering from a muscle injury he suffered in Villarreal’s Europa League semi-final against Arsenal, while Simon suffered a hamstring injury in Nantes 1-0 at Stade Rennes in Ligue 1 on Sunday.

Simon, who has three assists in three appearances for Nantes this season, was substituted at half-time in the loss.

Moreover, the chances of new Crystal Palace midfielder Michael Olise making the squad are slim, with the 19-year-old just returning to training.

Olise has yet to appear for the Eagles this season since his £ 8million summer transfer from Reading due to a back injury, but he has returned to light training and hopes to make his debut in the month next.

According to the British daily The Standard, manager Patrick Vieira does not want to throw Olise into the deep end as he moves from the championship to the Premier League.

Meanwhile, duo Emmanuel Dennis and Frank Onyeka are in contention for the match list after their brilliant Premier League debuts to the season, if their clubs allow them to make the trip to the qualifiers.

“Dennis and Onyeka have played very well in their first two Premier League games and are sure to be invited unless there are late problems,” a Super Eagles official told our correspondent.

The pair have made two starts for their respective teams with Dennis scoring on his debut for Watford in their 3-2 win over Aston Villa on Matchday 1.

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