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Sports News of Monday, 7 March 2022


Ghana vs Nigeria: Eagles forwards scorecard ahead crucial play-off

The Super Eagles The Super Eagles

Punch Sports Extra begins our series on how invited Super Eagles players are faring ahead of their crucial 2022 World Cup qualifying play-off on March 25 (Accra) and 29 (Abuja).

EBENEZER BAJELA begins the series with a look at the performance of the Eagles forwards.

Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City)

One of Nigeria’s outstanding players at the AFCON in Cameroon in January, Iheanacho scored the country’s first goal at the competition with a fine strike in a match he was named Man of The Match.

Since returning to Leicester City, the forward has not enjoyed the best of time but he would give Austin Eguavoen something to be happy about following his fine display in the Foxes win over Leeds United on Saturday.

Iheanacho played a key role as Leicester sealed back-to-back victories for only the second time this season, assisting the only goal scored by Harvey Barnes. So far this season, the 25-year-old has featured in 25 matches, scoring five goals and assisted nine.

Ademola Lookman (Leicester City)

U-20 World Cup winner for England in 2017, the 24-year-old received his long-awaited clearance from FIFA and will be eligible to represent Nigeria, with the mouth-watering clash against Ghana his potential debut for the Super Eagles.

Lookman is currently on-loan at Leicester City from German side Leipzig and has been a regular for Brendan Rodgers’ side. He has been involved in 10 (six goals, four assists) goals for the Foxes so far this season and will be a good addition to the Eagles squad.

Sadiq Umar (Almeria)

Umar scored a solitary goal at the AFCON, but his performance was heavily criticised by fans for “being too slow” but since returning to Spain, the forward has rediscovered the form that initially earned him his maiden national call-up. In his absence, Almeria failed to win any of the four matches they played, but upon his return to the club, they’ve won four out of the six matches they’ve played.

Coincidentally, he didn’t score in any of the two games they lost. Umar has scored 14 goals and assisted nine in what has been another fine season for him.

Moses Simon (Nantes)

Simon remains the Eagles’ most in-form forward at the moment. Prior to the AFCON, he was Nantes’ best player and the club felt his absence during the tournament. Since his return to France, the winger picked up from where he left off and was instrumental as Nantes defeated star-studded PSG recently, with the fast-paced winger providing an assist.

He also got the only goal in their win against Stade Reims. Simon has been involved in 10 (three goals and seven assists) goals for the French outfit this season, scoring three goals and proving seven assists.

Victor Osimhen (Napoli)

A return of 11 goals and four assists in 22 games doesn’t give a true picture of a player whose season has been plagued by injuries, the latest a face injury he suffered against Inter Milan in November 2021.

The fracture ruled him out of the AFCON in January. Since his return the 23-year-old continues to be a key figure for Napoli, evidence of this was seen in the club’s midweek game against Cagliari, as Luciano Spalletti threw him on with his side 1-0 down.

The Nigerian didn’t disappoint, as he grabbed a late equaliser for Napoli to keep their dream of winning the league for the first time in over 30 years alive.

Odion Ighalo (Al Hilal)

The former Manchester United striker was one of the key players that missed the AFCON in Cameroon after his former club Al-Shabab Riyadh rejected moves for their prized striker to join up with the national team for the tournament. Ighalo has since left the club to join local rivals Al Hilal Riyadh.

The 32-year-old didn’t waste any time settling down as he scored on his debut at the Club World Cup. Ighalo’s excellent form will be key to Nigeria’s success against Ghana as the striker has found the back of the net 18 times in the league.

Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal)

Having struggled at the beginning of the 2021/22 season and often used as a substitute, Chukwueze seems to have rediscovered his form and has started the last four games Villarreal played. The winger continues to struggle in front of goal, but his dribbling skills and technique continue to cause opponents a lot of problems and he is one of Unai Emery’s trusted men.

After a rather forgotten outing at the AFCON in Cameroon, Chukwueze would be hoping to bounce back to his usual exciting self against the Ghanaians.

Emmanuel Dennis (Watford)He is the man that all eyes will definitely be on as the Eagles hope to book a place in Qatar. Dennis missed the AFCON following Watford’s refusal to release him, but he is now expected to feature for the country against Ghana next month.

The striker has been Watford’s most in-form player this season and has scored nine goals with five assists in the league.

Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin)

Awoniyi got a rare chance to represent Nigeria at the AFCON following the absence of Osimhen, Ighalo and Dennis and the Union Berlin striker got a goal to open his Eagles account. The former Liverpool striker has been crucial to the Germans’ impressive season prior to his international duty.

But since his return, he has not been able to replicate the form that earned him the call-up as he has only scored once in all the five matches he has featured in with four of the games ending in defeats.

The striker scored a bizarre own goal as Union suffered a defeat to Wolfsburg on Saturday.

Paul Onuachu (Genk)

Big striker Onuachu missed the AFCON through injury and is among the seven players placed on standby by coach Austin Eguavoen for the clash. After a slow start to the season, the striker is beginning to hit form at the right time and he is the Eagles striker, joint top scorer, at club level this season with 18 goals, same as Ighalo.

Should he continue with his current form, the 27-year-old may be considered for a spot in the final 24-man squad.