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Nigeria coach calls up 42-player squad for WC qualifier

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Nigerian Coach Stephen Keshi is pictured on July 6, 2013 in Kaduna. Keshi has called up a total of 42 players made up of 24 from the local league and 18 from overseas for a World Cup qualifier against Malawi next month. (AFP/File)

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has called up a total of 42 players made up of 24 from the local league and 18 from overseas for a World Cup qualifier against Malawi next month.

Only five of the 24 players from the domestic championship will eventually join the 18 overseas-based stars for the qualifier, as well as for a friendly against Burkina Faso in Kaduna on September 10.

Goalkeeper Chigozie Agbim, defenders Azubuike Egwuekwe, Solomon Kwambe and Benjamin Francis, as well as midfielders Sunday Mba and forward Gambo Mohammed headline the locally-based contingent.

"We are calling up 24 home boys in order to be able to identify new players for the 2014 African Nations Championship, for which we have already qualified," said Keshi.

Goalkeepers Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide, defenders Efe Ambrose and Elderson Echiejile, midfielders Mikel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi and Victor Moses and forwards Emmanuel Emenike, Ahmed Musa and Brown Ideye top the list of the Europe-based pros.

Two-goal hero against South Africa in last week's Nelson Mandela Challenge, Uche Nwofor retains his slot while Spain-based midfielder Nosa Igiebor returns for the first time since the Africa Cup of Nations finals.

England-based Shola Ameobi and Lokomotiv Moscow's Obinna Nsofor also return.

Nigeria, on nine points, need only avoid defeat against seven-pointer Malawi at the U. J. Esuene Stadium on September 7 to reach the 10-team final elimination round of the African qualifying race for next year's showpiece event in Brazil.

The friendly against Burkina Faso at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna three days later brings together the two teams who battled for the Africa Cup of Nations trophy in Johannesburg on February 10, with Nigeria winning 1-0.