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Nigerian football in 2022: The good, the ugly and one memorable annihilation

10:56 PM MYT 31/12/2022
Victor Osimhen & Peter Etebo of Nigeria
GOAL looks back at the year, highlighting the nation’s best and worst moments, as well as individuals who flourished and vice-versa

Nigeria missing out on the 2022 World Cup saddened observers but it was not all doom and gloom for the nation’s passionate supporters.

Alex Iwobi looked back to his best for Everton and the Super Eagles after an imperfect start to the year, Joe Aribo got to the Europa League final with Rangers and Victor Osimhen overcame adversity to cement his place as Napoli’s central striker.

As for the Super Eagles, a mixed year brought about Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup qualification failure, leading to the jettisoning of Augustine Eguavoen with Jose Peseiro announced as his replacement in May.

In this feature, GOAL reviews Nigerian football in 2022.

  • Victor Osimhen Napoli friendly 2022-23

    Best player

    Undoubtedly Victor Osimhen. Despite facing intermittent criticism from Luciano Spalletti and having his commitment to Nigeria questioned, the Napoli marksman scored 18 Serie A goals and five for the Super Eagles in 2022.

    Osimhen packs a punch, gives any side he plays in an edge and potentially could be one of the best frontmen in Europe’s top five leagues.

    The best is yet to come.

  • Alex Iwobi Everton 2022-23

    Most improved player

    After years of underwhelming at Everton and following a sending-off in Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations elimination at the hands of Tunisia, Alex Iwobi was in dire straits.

    Nevertheless, the resurgence since returning to Everton duty in February has been admirable. Frank Lampard has got the best out of the former Arsenal man, giving him the confidence to flourish in the middle of the park.

    Despite the criticism before the World Cup hiatus and after their Boxing Day defeat by Wolverhampton, the midfielder’s body of work for most parts of 2022 cannot be dismissed because of two underwhelming showings.

  • Kelechi Iheanacho Leicester City.

    Most disappointing player

    Kelechi Iheanacho had a year to forget. Even though he scored that impressive winning goal against Egypt at Afcon, he was mostly out of the Leicester City team after returning from the competition in Cameroon.

    Indeed, it was surprising that Brendan Rodgers did not opt to play ‘Seniorman’ in tandem with Patson Daka more often, despite the green shoots of understanding between the pair.

    After a dearth of game time in 2022, Iheanacho will hope for a turnaround in the New Year.

  • Victor Osimhen of Nigeria vs Sao Tome and Principe.

    Biggest win

    Nothing but a routine win was expected from Nigeria’s Afcon qualifier with Sao Tome and Principe.

    However, the Super Eagles thrashed Sao Tome 10-0 to record a memorable success and set a new record for their biggest margin of victory in the nation’s history.

    Osimhen netted four times, Terem Moffi scored a brace and Moses Simon, Peter Etebo, Ademola Lookman and Emmanuel Dennis all found the back of the net in the rout.

    In what was Peseiro’s second competitive game in charge of Nigeria, the annihilation and elements of the Super Eagles’ play gave supporters loads to be impressed with.

  • Nigerian players reacts in disappointment after defeat, Leon Balogun.

    Biggest disappointment

    The nation’s Africa Cup of Nations disappointment does not even come close to their failure to make it to the World Cup in Qatar.

    The Super Eagles had played out a goalless encounter in Ghana and had the advantage of playing the reverse fixture days later in front of their fans.

    They failed to take advantage of the home support, playing out a 1-1 draw with their West African rivals, thus losing by scoring fewer away goals.

    The disappointment precipitated violence from the home fans in embarrassing scenes witnessed by the continent and the world.

    Consequently, Nigeria played their next competitive home fixture against Sierra Leone without fans in Abuja.

  • Osimhen celebrate Napoli Udinese Serie A

    Who could have a big 2023?

    While he needs no introduction, Osimhen’s 2023 could be history-setting.

    The Super Eagle could end the 2022-23 campaign as top scorer in Serie A and, more importantly, play a significant part in Napoli’s Scudetto ambition.

    The Partenopei have not won the league since 1990, so the ambition to end a 33-year wait ought to drive them in the first half of 2023.

    Claiming Napoli’s first Capocannoniere since Gonzalo Higuain in 2015-16 will please Osimhen but winning the Serie A will taste even sweeter.