Even as the 33rd African Cup of Nations approaches, striker Odion Ighalo could still make the Super Eagles squad, according to interim coach of Nigeria Austin Eguavoen, with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) doing everything necessary to gain his release from Saudi Arabia clubside Al-Shabab.
Eguavoen informed NFFTV from the Super Eagles training camp in Garoua following the squad’s first training session that Ighalo is also interested in joining the national team at the AFCON.
“Odion has been contacted. I texted him, and based on his response, he’s doing everything he can to join us, and the NFF is doing everything it can to obtain his release. We were hoping for a nice response.”
Eguavoen revealed that he considered replacing Ighalo with other players, but the CAF rules governing the competition prevented him from doing so.
“I considered replacing him with either Nasarawa United’s Silas Nwankwo or Sweden’s Akinkunmi Amoo, who is not a striker but can play off the primary striker. However, CAF claims that the only time we’ll be able to bring in players who aren’t on the first 40-man list is if one of them sustains a significant injury,” He expressed himself.
The coach also admitted that the huge expectations of the supporters, who expect the Super Eagles to win their fourth AFCON title in Cameroon, have put him under pressure.
“Yes, I’m certainly under pressure,” he admitted. You can’t say you’re not under pressure if you’re Mourinho, Conte, Pep Guardiola, or any other of the world’s best coaches. Guardiola is one of my favorite coaches since his approach to games is usually unique, yet he has yet to win the Champions League. Because he wants to win the Champions League, you can’t say he’s not under pressure. When people think Nigeria will win the AFCON, it puts me under pressure, but we’ll take it one game at a time and see what happens. It won’t be easy, though, because every club that has come here wants to win and make a statement, so the first game is vital. That would give you a lot of confidence going into the event, so I’d say there’s some pressure, but I’m more calm now than I was two weeks ago.”
Tyronne Ebuehi, who is based in Italy, and Jamilu Collins, who plays for Paderborn 07 in Germany, are set to join the Super Eagles on Thursday.
“Tyrone Ebuehi and Jamilu Collins are expected to join us on Thursday. Tyrone has a game tonight (Wednesday) and will be joining us tomorrow.”