The Super Eagles of Nigeria are looking set to miss the presence of 2019 AFCON top scorer, Odion Ighalo, and possibly risk having to settle for 27 players as against 28 called up by the Interim Boss, Augustine Eguavoen.
The 28 man list released sometime in late December, included forwards Victor Osimhen, Emmanuel Dennis, Odion Ighalo, Ahmed Musa, Samuel Chukwueze, Moses Simon, Sadiq Umar, Taiwo Awoniyi, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho. However, due to some circumstances bothering on health and administration, Victor Osimhen of Napoli and Emmanuel Dennis have been completely ruled out of the tournament which commences on the 9th of January, with the Super Eagles facing the Pharaohs of Egypt on the 11th of January.
The NFF swiftly elected to replace the duo of Osimhen and Emmanuel with Peter Olayinka of SK Slavia Praha of the Czech Republic, and Henry Onyekuru Olympiacos of Greece, who are both in camp already.
Unknown to Nigerians and their administrators, there were still more to the twist, as most recently, it seems Al Shabab, the club side of the AFCON 2019 tournament’s top scorer (Odion Ighalo) is adamant to let him travel for the competition, leaving the country in a bit of a limbo as it seems a replacement cannot be drafted in at this point, except for health reasons or injuries by CAF regulations, which was confirmed by Augustine Eguavoen in Cameroon, “What CAF is saying is only based on injuries, health reasons, that’s the only way you can replace players, so that’s the only reason that’s holding us back, but the Federation is putting in all effort, whether from here, the young man, Odion is also doing his best from there”.
Ighalo who is Nigeria’s 4th joint top scorer announced his retirement from international football after playing a part in the 2019 AFCON in Egypt. His absence including that of Osimhen and Emmanuel, some have described as a huge miss for the country in their quest for a 4th title. Albeit, the team still has quality up top for plenty, and should CAF give them a green light to call up a replacement for the former Watford goal poacher, then there are still quality players that could be given a foray into the team.
Interim Boss, Augustine Eguavoen who took charge after the sacking of Gernot Rohr has given a bit of a hint on who could likely be Ighalo’s replacement if the chance arrives, “Either the boy from Nasarawa United, Silas Nwankwo, he is a good player no doubt, because it’s a striker for the striker, and also Akinkumi Amo”.
Given the rules and regulations guiding the calling-up and replacement of players for a major tournament, it’s left to be seen if CAF would succumb to any form of pressure in allowing the Super Eagles to call up a replacement for their striker who has been in regular contact with the gaffer, otherwise, the Super Eagles who had their first training session yesterday after arriving Garoua, Cameroon will make do with what they have in their arsenal, and hopes it barely affects them.