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May 11, 2010

Lagerback denies pressure claims

Lars Lagerback has denied that the Nigerian Football Federation put him under pressure to select certain players after naming his provisional 30-man Super Eagles squad for the World Cup.

Lars Lagerback
GettyImagesLars Lagerback: Former Sweden boss

Lagerback included 33-year-old striker Nwankwo Kanu, who made his national team debut in 1994, while also recalling his Portsmouth team-mate John Utaka and Everton's Victor Anichebe.

Utaka had been overlooked by former boss Amodu Shaibu for the African Nations Cup earlier this year while Anichebe has only recently returned from injury.

"Individual skills and fitness levels were considered when picking the players,'' Lagerback said. "It does not matter if a player is 20 or 35 years old.''

There were also call-ups for Anichebe's Everton team-mates Joseph Yobo and Ayegbeni Yakubu while injured Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel was also named.

Mikel missed the final three games of recently-crowned English champions Chelsea's season due to a knee injury and is set to miss the weekend's FA Cup final against Portsmouth. He is, however, expected to be fit by the end of may in time for Nigeria's pre-World Cup training camp.

Nigeria are set to play friendlies against Saudi Arabia in Austria on May 25 and Colombia in London on May 30 before heading to South Africa for further matches against North Korea and the tournament hosts.

Nigeria provisional squad:

Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Hapoel Tel Aviv), Dele Ayenugba (Beni Yehuda FC), Bassey Akpan (Bayelsa United), Austine Ejide (Hapoel Petah Tikva)

Defenders: Taye Taiwo (Marseille), Elderson Echiejile (Rennes), Chidi Odiah (CSKA Moscow) Onyekachi Apam (Nice), Joseph Yobo (Everton), Daniel Shittu (Bolton), Ayodele Adeleye (Sparta Rotterdam), Rabiu Afolabi (Salzburg), Peter Suswan (Lobi Stars)

Midfielders: Kalu Uche (Almeria), Dickson Etuhu (Fulham), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), Sani Kaita (Alaniya), Lukman Haruna (Monaco), Ayila Yussuf (Dynamo Kiev), Peter Osaze (Lokomotiv Moscow)

Forwards: Yakubu Ayegbeni (Everton), Victor Anichebe (Everton), Chinedu Obasi (Hoffenheim), Nwankwo Kanu (Portsmouth), Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg), Ideye Brown (Sochaux), Ikechukwu Uche (Zaragoza), John Utaka (Portsmouth), Peter Utaka (Odense), Victor Obinna (Malaga).