Nigeria’s hope of winning the Nations Cup in January 2022 was dealt a huge blow with injury to in-form Napoli striker; Victor Osimhen. The facial injury occurred on Sunday in a league match against Inter-Milan which ended in a 3-2 defeat, and will sideline him for 3 whole months. This means the 22 year old will miss the opportunity to represent Nigeria at the bi-annual competition the nation last won in 2013, joining Etebo among notable names set to miss out due to injuries.
The moment the doctors report was released after the successful surgery he had, the question it has raised among Nigerians is; who steps into the huge vacuum left behind by his forced exit? As if the NFF were fortune tellers who saw this coming, the last set of list released to prosecute the last set of matches had a certain retiree whose addition raised concerns from football lovers. Odion Ighalo was recalled to the team after he had announced his retirement from national duties immediately after the last Nations Cup In Egypt, where he won the the top scorer award despite Nigeria not making it to the finals.
Aged 32, he currently plies his trade in Saudi Arabia with Al Shabab in a league so many view as not competitive enough to be invited for the Super Eagles, but somehow, Coach Rohr felt he still has what it takes and hence his inclusion at the expense of other younger players like Taiwo Awoniyi and Paul Onuachu. But if that was supposed to be a test run, what now happens with Victor out completely from the cup competition?
Will the NFF and Rohr ditch the idea of Ighalo and bring back this youthful but inexperienced duo or will they stick to the experienced but tired Ighalo? Lets take a look at the profile of Taiwo Awoniyi and Paul Onuachu.
Born on the 12th of August 1997, he currently plays in one of Europes’ top league; The German Bundesliga with Union Berlin. With 8 goals scored already in 12 league matches, some school of thoughts believe former employers, Liverpool FC, might regret letting him leave permanently during the last transfer market as he is turning out to be one of the bargains of the season. He is clearly enjoying his football and at just 24 years of age, playing in a competitive league, why would anyone in their right senses not make him the ideal person to play up front? Well, except you are Coach Rohr.
Paul is the closest the Super Eagles have had to legendary stricker, Rashidi Yekini. Standing well above the 2 meter mark, his physicality and brute force has won him accolades in Belgium where he stars for Genk in the Belgian league; he has won personal awards in Belgium. His astounding full debut goal still ranks amongst the best Nigerians have witnessed on home soil in recent years when he scored Nigeria’s fastest ever international goal against Egypt in March 2019. He is built to withstand the rigors of African football, and that is exactly the kind of faces we should have when the final plane departs for the competition come January. After 14 matches played this campaign, he has hit the back of the net 10 times, while also registering his name in the UCL and Europa league outings.
As Nigerians await the final list, so many will be hoping for these two to be called instead of the once retired striker.
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Abel Alasan is a creative writer with over 6 years creating contents for blogs, magazines and documentary projects. His areas of interest ranges from politics, lifestyle, family/parenting and sports.