Umar Sadiq, Nigeria - Super EaglesBackpagepix

Afcon 2021: Nigeria have 'absolute confidence' in Sadiq – Eguavoen

Nigeria coach Augustine Eguavoen has leapt to the defence of Umar Sadiq amid criticism following his Africa Cup of Nations cameo performances.

Fans and pundits alike are expecting more from the Almeria striker, even though he didn't get enough opportunities in two of the three games.

Before putting the Super Eagles ahead in the 2-0 defeat of Guinea-Bissau, the 24-year-old had fluffed several scoring opportunities and this is where the criticism stems from.

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Sadiq had been an easy target against Sudan and was placed under the microscope.

Regardless, Eguavoen believes the Spain-based striker remains an integral part of the squad and assures he will deliver whenever he is called upon.

“We have a lot of confidence in him. He has been scoring goals for the club he is playing for,” the 56-year-old told the media.

“We know this is the national team and this is a very big stage. He should first of all look for an assist before trying to score. He is an integral part of this team.

“We have absolute confidence in him and whenever he is brought on, he will always do well.”

During the three-time African champions’ training on Friday night, Eguavoen had a long chat with the under-fire striker and the Super Eagles handler shared a part of their conversation.

“He also told me ‘as a striker, the first thing in his mind is to score goals’, and I said yes that is an instinct and that is normal, but this is a team.

“We believe in you whenever you have a chance to score, you score, if you don’t just pass the ball.

“We have a lot of confidence in you, so you are still part of this team. Do not let what other people are talking about you bother you.”

Umar could play a role in Nigeria’s Round of 16 clash against Tunisia on Sunday night at the Roumde Adjia Stadium in Garoua.

Both teams are meeting for the sixth time in the competition, with four of the previous five matches being played in knock-out games. The West Africans are unbeaten in all five (W3 D2, excluding shoot-outs).