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Osimhen injury: Can Ighalo replace Nigeria star at Afcon?

12:58 GMT+3 25/11/2021
Victor Osimhen - Nigeria, Super Eagles
Could the veteran hitman be a replacement for the injured Napoli striker?

With Victor Osimhen set to miss out on the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations in January, GOAL’s Daniel Kolade assesses Odion Ighalo’s chances of being the man to lead the Super Eagles upfront.

After suffering a cheekbone fracture, Osimhen underwent successful surgery and is now set to be out for at least three months, per an update from the club.

The 22-year-old was expected to lead the line in the continental showpiece but all of those plans are now off the cards.

In the absence of Osimhen, the mantle might now fall on recently recalled Ighalo to lead the firepower upfront in search of goals.

Elsewhere, a section of fans have called for players like Taiwo Awoniyi and Paul Onuachu to be given chances to impress and show their worth.

However, at the moment, Ighalo is the natural replacement to come in for Osimhen, but question marks remain over the 32-year-old’s recall to the Super Eagles, not to mention whether he can effectively lead the line.

Can Ighalo step in and fill Osimhen’s shoes?

Recalled from his two-year international retirement, the recall of Igahlo was met with much backlash.

It did not help that the Al-Shabab forward had a game to forget in Nigeria’s recent drab stalemate with Cape Verde.

It’s a far claim to say that Ighalo could come in and replicate Osimhen’s displays with the Super Eagles, not to mention the Napoli man’s consistency over recent times as well.

Osimhen has enjoyed a fine campaign so far this season, for club and country, and had the potential to be Nigeria’s difference-maker at the tournament in Cameroon as Nigeria look to win their first title since 2013.

Beyond his nine goals for Napoli across all competitions, the 22-year-old accounts for four out of Nigeria’s last seven goals across all outings.

It’s important to note that Osimhen brings more than just goals to the Super Eagles but his all-round play offers a different dimension.

On days when he doesn’t score, his presence and energy as a No. 9 are key assets, and make him a difficult task to handle for opposition defenders.

Ighalo might have won the Afcon Golden Boot in 2019 but he is far from the player he was two years ago.

His experience all over cannot be disputed but he can’t offer the versatility that Osimhen would bring upfront.

Whoever will lead the Super Eagles into the continental competition has a big decision to make in terms of striking options.

Ighalo himself might have a point to prove after recent criticism, but there’s little to offer encouragement that he can step in to replace Osimhen and the vast contribution he could have made to the Super Eagles’ Nations Cup prospects.

by Daniel Kolade