The Super Eagles were handed a massive blow when Victor Osimhen was ruled out of the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations in January after sustaining a horror injury in action for Napoli against Internazionale at the weekend.
The Napoli forward had to undergo surgery and was subsequently ruled out of action for three months.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from his stay on the sidelines is the fact that the 22-year-old will sit out the Afcon, scheduled to start on January 9.
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Osimhen’s importance in the Super Eagles’ ranks needs no explanation, with the striker stepping up big with crucial goals over recent times.
In country colours, the forward alone accounts for more than 50 percent of Nigeria’s goals across their last five competitive games. That alone highlights his importance regarding goals as well as the overall balance of the team.
Losing a player of Osimhen’s calibre and influence is no doubt a major dent in the Super Eagles’ plans but what if there is some good to come out of it?
Osimhen’s absence might give rise to a new star forward
On paper, Nigeria boasts one of the best squad depths for forwards in international football. Regardless, scoring goals has proven to be quite the task for the West African side.
One would have to go back to March to see a time when the Super Eagles scored more than two goals in a single game.
At the moment, Al-Shabab forward and recently recalled Odion Ighalo is set to lead the line for Nigeria and he appears primed to be the man to fill Osimhen’s boots.
Players like Terem Moffi, Taiwo Awoniyi, Cyriel Dessers and David Okereke are all in decent form at the moment but are yet to be handed chances by Rohr.
The German tactician has openly stated that he was more focused on results than anything, when responding to criticism from fans regarding poor displays from the Super Eagles.
The absence of Osimhen is one that could possibly force the hand of Rohr to dig deep into his abundance of options in search of firepower upfront.
For a country blessed with so many strikers at the moment, it is ironic that Nigeria have struggled to score goals or even create chances in recent fixtures.
The absence of their star forward is one that could force the team to adapt to something new and perhaps give rise to the birth of another consistent performer upfront.
While the duo of Ighalo and Paul Onuachu are well ahead of the aforementioned forwards in the pecking order, it is time for the Super Eagles to look elsewhere for goals and the stage is set for a new name to make that position his own.
With the World Cup taking place next year as well, players will be eager to prove their point and there couldn’t have been a better time to try out something new than with the upcoming continental competition.
by Daniel Kolade