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2022 World Cup Qualifiers: Onazi hits back at critics over Nigeria return for Ghana clash

08:33 GMT 07/03/2022
Ogenyi Onazi of Nigeria during the 2019 Afcon football qualifier between Nigeria.
The 29-year-old has been named in the standby list by coach Austin Eguavoen for the Super Eagles’ vital fixture against the Black Stars

Al-Adalah midfielder Ogenyi Onazi has come out to defend his selection in Nigeria’s provisional squad for their upcoming 2022 World Cup qualifying fixture against Ghana.

The 29-year-old is among the standby players named by coach Austin Eguavoen ahead of the two-legged fixture but his inclusion was questioned by Super Eagles fans, who feel he has outlived his usefulness for the national team.

Onazi, who last featured for Nigeria four years ago in the 3-0 win over Seychelles during the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, made the standby list alongside Chidozie Awaziem, Jamilu Collins, Chidera Ejuke, Taiwo Awoniyi, Paul Onuachu, and Peter Olayinka.

“It’s not a surprise for me because I’m still playing and I’m ready to play anytime and when it comes to the national team, I’m always at the service of the nation – to always give my best for the country,” Onazi told Omasports as quoted by Completesports.

“Yes it’s been a while I was in the Eagles, but when we talk about this very game – home and away - that will take us to the World Cup [it is very important]. When I got a call from the coach, he told me how important it is – and I also know how important it is.

“We need the experience to be able to tackle this game. It’s not a game of saying where do you play or where do you come from or whatever you’re doing.

“The likes of [Odion] Ighalo, the likes of Ahmed Musa, and the rest who are in the list, we need to put our heads together. This is a national issue, not an individual issue. We are not playing a singles sport, we need to bring heads together to make the right things at the right time.”

Onazi, who has also played for Lazio in Serie A, insists he will not be distracted by his critics as his main focus is to help the Super Eagles reach Qatar.

“Personally, I don’t listen to what they write online. I’m still on the reserve list, not yet on the main list so we can’t tell what’s going to happen. Let’s keep it that way and then we’ll see what’s going to happen,” Onazi continued.

“As far as I’m concerned, football in this present situation now – it doesn’t matter if you’re playing in Manchester United or you’re playing in Kazakhstan or wherever. You’re not taking your club to go and play in the national team, you’re taking your individual skill and ability to join with your fellow players and make a team.

“During my time at the national team, I never had a problem with anybody. I’ve always been a person in the middle – between the young and the old – to make them integrate into the team. When I’m on the pitch, I give my all until I’m almost dead.”

The Super Eagles will travel to face the Black Stars in the first leg fixture on March 25 before the returning leg in Abuja four days later.