Ex-internationals, Ifeanyi Udeze and Jonathan Akpoborie have urged head coach, Gernot Rohr, to trust Kelechi Iheanacho with a starting role when Nigeria clash against the Benin Republic on March 27 in Porto Novo.
Napoli’s Victor Osimhen has been Rohr’s preferred number nine since Odion Ighalo announced his international retirement after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations championship.
Iheanacho missed that tournament following an indifferent run of form at Leicester City in the period leading to Egypt 2019.
Osimhen, who has found the back of the net four times between 2019 and 2021, has largely repaid his coach’s faith in him, leading Rohr to consider Iheanacho as a mere alternative to the former Lille ace.
But Iheanacho has rediscovered his magical touch in front of goal of late, netting seven times in his last four matches.
His hat-trick against Sheffield United on March 14 made him only the fifth Nigerian to score three times in a Premier League match.
And the 24-year-old’s brace in Leicester City’s 3-1 defeat of Manchester United at the weekend took him past Didier Drogba as Africa’s top goal-scorer in the FA Cup with 13 goals.
It would be unwise to keep such an in-form striker on the bench, and Akpoborie has advised Rohr to find a way to play both Iheanacho and Osimhen together.
“Looking from the outside, both of them can easily play together for Nigeria. The coach must find a system to suit both players,” the former striker told ESPN.
Osimhen’s switch to Serie A has not gone as expected, with the former Golden Eaglets hero managing just three goals for Napoli so far.
Former West Bromwich Albion defender Udeze is convinced that Iheanacho deserves to start ahead of Osimhen, should Rohr decide to go with only one striker in Porto Novo.
“I think Iheanacho should lead the team in our next two games because he has been playing and scoring for his club side lately, and I believe he will score again for us,” Udeze said.
Iheanacho, who made his debut for the Super Eagles in 2016, has scored nine international goals in 29 games for the three-time African champions.