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Has Sly done enough to earn Nigeria comeback?

20:23 GMT+3 10/05/2019
Sylvester Igboun of FC Midtjylland
The FC Ufa wideman’s purple patch surely can’t be overlooked by Gernot Rohr for much longer, but competition for places may be a stumbling block

The unique thing about purple patches is they’re hard to ignore, especially if a player enjoying one is popular and habitually packs a punch.

For lesser known names, however, especially those with a questionable track record, doubts always remain because there’s the tendency for things to revert to the mean.

Sylvester Igboun’s case probably falls in the latter category, given his minimal popularity.

Nevertheless, the attacker’s persistent performances are starting to catch the eye, and he was named in the Goal Africa Team of the Month for April, owing to an amazing spell for Gorozhane where he scored four goals in as many appearances

The peak of those performances was in a 4-1 victory over Ural Yekaterinburg in which he netted a brace for the strugglers against opponents some thought they’ll falter against. That win was the Townspeople’s first win in four games, with their previous success, a 1-0 win against Rostov, seeing the frontman pull the side to success.

Rip away his league goals (he’s scored nine in total this term) and Ufa, whose next high scorer Ondrej Vanek with three goals, would surely be lower in the Russia Premier League table.

Vadim Evseev's troops sit in 14th spot after 27 games with 26 points, and have the Nigerian’s important goals to thank for still having a chance to retain their league status by means of a potential relegation playoff, which will be against Krylya Sovetov Samara as it stands.

A lack of goals has severely hampered Evseev’s side, consequently seeing them fall from last year’s sixth-place finish to fighting for their lives in the current campaign. Ufa are averaging less than a goal a game – they’ve scored 24 times this term – and Sly, who’s provided a couple of assists, has been involved in 46 percent of their goals.

However, when a closer look is taken, this side scored just 34 times in 2017/18 – the lowest of any side in the top six, so maybe this is just business as usual and they’ve just struggled with a slight increase in the league’s all-round quality this year.

Be that as it may, it takes nothing away from Igboun who’s won six international caps for Nigeria, with the last one coming in 2015 under Sunday Oliseh in a 2018 World Cup Qualifier against Swaziland at Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium.

The encounter which ended 2-0 to the Super Eagles sealed their progress to the third round/group phase of qualification, but the then Midtjylland forward hasn’t donned the green of the three-time African champions since.

Perhaps the departure of Oliseh was to the forward’s detriment, given the Delta-born manager showed faith in him when he was in charge.

Igboun failed to score in any of his appearances for the Super Eagles, however, getting substituted at half-time in his penultimate game in Swaziland, a match that ended goalless, before missing a good chance against the same opponents a few days later in the aforementioned win.

Almost four years down the line, could the 28-year-old be given another chance with the Africa Cup of Nations approaching?

In truth, as things stand, it’s hard to fathom how the forward could break into the final 23-man side with the continental competition imminent. Gernot Rohr has his hands full with a plethora of attacking options at his disposal, which will inevitably lead to a few players feeling disgruntled after the German’s final selection.

Nevertheless, Igboun will back himself to at least make the preliminary Afcon squad, alongside another long-term absentee Anthony Nwakaeme.

Like the Ufa attacker, the Trabzonspor inside forward is making a late play for Nations Cup selection with his form in the Turkish top flight. While they are unlikely to be on the plane to Egypt, being part of the prelim squad demonstrates that their efforts are being acknowledged and offers hope for future inclusion.

Even if he can be a bit profligate – unsurprisingly he’s missed six big chances this term – Sly’s industry and knack for picking up the right positions on the pitch from time to time ccould add something to the West Africans’ frontline.

While the forthcoming competition in the North African nation may come too soon for Ufa’s go-to man, Rohr needs to keep him in his thinking as, even at 28, Igboun may still feel he has unfinished business with the Super Eagles.