What do Semi Ajayi and Jamilu Collins offer the Super Eagles?

Semi Ajayi of Rotherham and Nigeria watches on Backpage pix

Gernot Rohr surprised Nigerial fans on Friday with the inclusion of uncapped defensive duo Semi Ajayi and Jamilu Collins ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier away to Seychelles.

To the best of the public knowledge, the pair have not previously been on the radar of the national handlers selectors, and now have a chance of creating a positive impression as they link up for the first time with the Super Eagles.

Five years ago, the pair had their first shot at international football with Nigeria, featuring at the 2013 Toulon Tournament - which included Wilfred Ndidi and Moses Simon - but were unsuccessful in their last minute bid to gate-crash the FIFA U-20 World Cup squad.

However, the pair appear to have developed and taken the positives from that setback, and the big question arises of what they have to offer and how can they improve the Super Eagles?

Rotherham United's Ajayi is a central defender, who has been described as "calm and composed in possession and adept at aerial duels."

The 24-year-old was on the books of the Arsenal U-21 team for two years, trained with the first-team on a couple of occasions and made the Gunners bench for three Premier League matches and a Capital One Cup home defeat by Southampton.

Following his 2015 release by Arsenal, Ajayi joined Championship side Cardiff City, was loaned out to AFC Wimbledon and Crewe Alexandra, but struggled to impress on both occasions.

A January 2017 transfer to Championship strugglers Rotherham proved to be the turning point as he made 17 league appearances, but was unable to prevent the Yorkshiremen from being relegated to League One at the end of that season.

Ajayi made massive progress in his first full season with Rotherham after stepping down a division, making 35 appearances and scoring four goals as his team earned an instant promotion back to the Championship at their first attempt.

He has carried on his impressive form into this season, featuring in four league matches and netting in a Carabao Cup victory against Wigan Athletic.

The London-born defender, who is a formidable aerial threat at both ends of the pitch at 6'4, is comfortable playing the ball out of defence, thereby increasing Rohr's options in the centre of defence.

However, Ajayi will need to brace up to the physicality of African football, the harsh weather conditions, the travel time associated with international football and satisfy the ever-demanding Nigeria football fans as he looks to break into a formidable young and hugely talented team.

While Ajayi could have a herculean task in upstaging the competition in front of him, the same can be said of SC Paderborn left-back Jamilu Collins, whose notable threat at the moment appears to be Brian Idowu following the exclusion of Elderson Echiejile.

The Kaduna-born player, who started out at the famous Abuja Football College Academy, has experienced a nomadic career which has included several failed loan spells.

After moving to Croatian side HNK Rijeka in 2012, he has gone to have short-term loan spells at various clubs including NK Krka in the Slovenian PrvaLiga. A 2017 move to German third-division club Paderborn following a trial period culminated in promotion at the end of the season.

Now playing in the German second division, Collins has started and completed both league matches against Darmstadt 98 and Regensburg at left-back and now earns a first invite to the senior national team.

The 24-year-old becomes the latest player to audition for a role in the team after unsuccessful trio Kingsley Madu, Stanley Amuzie and Maarouf Yussuf.

The timing of Collins' invitation appears to suit him best, as he could be a direct replacement for Echiejile and possibly provide the natural width and balance the right-footed full-back options have struggled to provide the Eagles.