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Monday, January 3, 2022

AFCON: Nigeria risks missing Ighalo as Saudi Club, Al Shabab keen to hold him back

The Super Eagles may be without striker, Odion Ighalo following media reports that his club, Saudi Arabia ‘s Al Shabab may not release him for the Africa Cup of Nations starting on January 9 in Cameroon.

Ighalo is Al Shabab ‘s highest goals scorer on 10 goals from 14 games this season and has helped the club stabilized and are second on the log with the prospect of a shot at the title.

Although there is no confirmation yet as Super Eagles handlers are expecting the 2019 AFCON highest goals scorer in camp this week to link up with his international teammates, exclusion of Ighalo will be big blow to Nigeria after Victor Osimhen and Emmanuel Dennis had also pulled out in similar circumstances.

He grabbed the winning goal for Al Shabab to beat Al Ahli 4-3 in a thrilling Saudi Arabian league clash on New Year day.

Ighalo, who was top scorer at the 2019 AFCON in Egypt, stayed top of the Saudi topflight goals chart with 11 goals.

The 32-yer-old striker proved to be the difference when he struck in the 73rd minute to make it 4-3 in favour of his club.

Al Shabab remain second on the table with 31 points from 15 matches, a point behind leaders Al Ittihad.

They are gunning to reclaim the championship, which they last won in the 2011/2012 season. They were runners-up last season

The former Manchester United striker has now scored 11 goals so far this season from 15 appearances and has raked in 1,350 minutes of action in the top-flight league.

The win enabled Al Shabab to cement their second position on the 16-team table with 31 points from 15 matches, one point fewer than leaders Al-Ittihad, who have played one match fewer.

This could be Ighalo’s last match for Al Shabab for a while as he is among the players summoned by Nigeria interim coach Augustine Eguavoen for the Africa Cup of Nations set to kick off on January 9 in Cameroon.

Apart from Ighalo, other forwards in the Super Eagles squad include Ahmed Musa, who turns out for Fatih Karagumruk in Turkey, Samuel Chukwueze of Spanish side Villarreal FC, Henry Onyekuru of Olympiacos FC in Greece, Moses Simon of FC Nantes in France, and Sadiq Umar of UD Almeria in Spain.

Others are Taiwo Awoniyi of Union Berlin in Germany, Kelechi Iheanacho of Premier League side Leicester City and Peter Olayinka of SK Slavia Praha in the Czech Republic.

The Super Eagles have been pooled in Group D of the continental finals alongside Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, and Sudan and they will open their campaign with a game against the Pharaohs at Roumde Adjia Stadium on January 11.

I'm an avid and seasoned sports/ multimedia journalist. I have a biased love for Real Madrid and passionate advocate for the overall growth of the Nigeria Sports Project. I can be reached on 09077894123 or/and '[email protected]'

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