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Aribo: Why Nigeria’s Afcon exit affected Super Eagle's Rangers display

5:04 AM EDT 5/17/22
Nigeria midfielder Joe Aribo of Rangers FC.
The 25-year-old reveals why his form for the Gers dipped when he returned from the continental finals where the Super Eagles reached the Round of 16

Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo has admitted Nigeria’s exit from the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations affected his display for the Scottish club when he returned from Cameroon.

The 25-year-old was in the Nigeria squad for the continental showpiece which was held between January and February but the Super Eagles failed to make it past the Round of 16 after losing 1-0 against Tunisia.

On returning to Scotland after the exit, Aribo endured a slow start with the Gers that saw him go for six straight matches without finding the back of the net.

Aribo has revealed the disappointing exit affected him emotionally and hence it showed in his form for the Scottish Premiership side, but credited manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst for helping him to regain his form.

“There was disappointment at [Nigeria] not going as far as I felt we could have done because we had a good group stage. There was a bit in my feelings and it showed in my form,” Aribo said as quoted by The Scotsman.

“I had to put it behind me and had a chat with the manager. He said he’d been there, he’d been in about five semi-final losses and that’s a hard thing to endure. He really helped me get back.

“It’s always good to have a manager who has been there and done it. Everyone can go through their own things personally, but a manager with that kind of experience knows how to be and what buttons to push.”

Aribo has further explained why he loves to eat his favourite food, pasta.

“I eat a lot of pasta, to be fair. It is my go-to,” Aribo explained. “It’s a testament to the staff here, everyone, really. The sports scientists help me with my recovery and keep me going. With the chefs, it’s about what I’m eating.

“I’ve got to be thankful for everything they do.”

In recent weeks, with Rangers missing injured players, among them Kemar Roofe, the former Charlton Athletic player has been preferred to start up front by Van Bronckhorst instead of his midfield position.

Speaking on his new role, Aribo explained: “I’m just happy to be out there, helping the boys whatever way I can.

“It’s different compared to playing in midfield areas, of course. But I want to add goals into my game so in that sense, there is an easier chance to score. I’ve not really played that much up front. It’s one I’m still adapting to.

“When I find out that I’m going to be playing up front, I speak a lot with Roy [Makaay, assistant coach]. He tells me some movements. He knows that I’m strong and can battle with defenders and back in.

“You can’t get a better guy when you think about his career, what he did, it just shows I’m not in bad company and can learn from him.”

Aribo is among the list of African players in the Rangers squad. Others are his compatriots – defenders Calvin Bassey and Leon Balogun - Zambia international Fashion Sakala, and Ivory Coast’s Amad Diallo, who is on loan from Manchester United.

Rangers, who have missed out on the league title, have a chance to end the season with silverware when they take on Eintracht Frankfurt in the final of the Europa League at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville on Wednesday.