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Aftermath of Ighalo’s retirement: Who steps forward for Super Eagles?

 

In sports and even in life things happen per second per second and most times as you dwell on one issue another issues crop up and the rhythm continues.

Few minutes after he left the pitch following sudden injury and haven scored the only goal against Carthage Eagles of Tunisia that gave Super Eagles the Bronze medal at the just ended Nations cup in Egypt, I was tempted to write a piece titled; “He came, he scored, he left”, referring to tournament highest goal scorer, Odion Ighalo.

The 30 year old who subsequently announced his retirement from international football has been a regular news item for close to a year now beginning from the last World Cup in Russia where Eagles were ousted in the group stage.

Coach Gernot Rohr was not the only one that got the lashing of some fans over what they dubbed poor showing of the team, Ighalo also got an overdose of such condemnation following a begging chance he failed to bury against perennial rivals Argentina.

The volume of insults hauled at the Shanghai Shenhua forward by dissatisfied fans was quite overwhelming.

Painful as it was, and as was expressed by the former Watford ace, he was able to rise above it to try and right the wrongs, and to a great extent he did.

He did not only emerge the highest goal scorer with seven goals in the Afcon qualifiers, he also went ahead to become the highest goal scorer in the tournament proper with five goals.

At the last count he stepped aside leaving a record of 16 international goals, 35 caps and three assists.

Safe to say he has paid his dues.  Now that is Ighalo has retired, who steps in front for Eagles?

Ighalo was meant to be a top finisher and he did a number of times combine effectively with Alex Iwobi and Ahmed Musa who set up the target for the kill. They have their own little flaws as no one is perfect.

There is no doubt need to look closely as some of the new players that have shown hunger to deliver.

Villareal’s Samuel Chukwueze looks like a handful. His speed and dexterity looks like one that can be sharpened to do the damage when it matters most.

His first international goal against Bafana Bafana in the quarterfinals remains a delight.

Galatasaray’s Henry Onyekwuru could rattle any defence on a good day. Fourteen goals for his club in the 2018/19 season is no mean feat.

Kelechi Iheanacho who has been struggling to hold down a regular slot at Leicester City, and who was dropped ahead of the Nations cup in Egypt as a result of his minimal playing time looks like one who needs a boost in confidence to return to his days at Manchester City.

Ighalo’s retirement means that the Super Eagles technical crew must identify and settle for a finisher or tinker one of the aforementioned into a finisher.

Other strikers who featured at Nations cup including Victor Osimhen (Royal Charleroi SC, Belgium); Moses Simon (Levante FC, Spain); Samuel Kalu (Girondins Bordeaux, France) and Paul Onuachu (FC Midtjyland, Denmark) all need to be tried given extra roles especially during the qualifiers ahead of the next Nations Cup in Cameroon.

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