IT is less than two weeks to Nigeria’s two-legged 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying fixture against Egypt and of Watford, has yet to overcome the goal drought he has been experiencing since January.
Ighalo, who has scored 14 goals in the English Premier League between August and December 2015, has failed to score in the league this year, raising doubts about his ability to play his role as the Eagles’ main goal-scorer against Egypt.
Going by the stance of the interim Eagles coach, Samson Siasia, who has said players’ performance in the previous national team assignments and club form would not count, it seems the lead striker role would be open to the likes of Fanendi Adi of Portland Timbers, USA, and Chisom Chikatara of Abia Warriors.
Adi, who just got invited to the Eagles for the first time, has been in fine goal-scoring form in the US’ Major League Soccer, having helped his club win the MLS Cup in December, scoring 18 goals in the process.
On the other hand, Chikatara, who was the third highest goal-scorer in the Nigerian league last season, with 15 goals, shot to prominence at the Rwanda 2016 African Nations Championship, where he established himself as a slick goal poacher.
According to Siasia, only players who show “ferocious form” during the training for both games will see action. This means other forwards who were invited for the games such as Ahmed Musa of CSKA Moscow, Moses Simon of KAA Gent, Victor Moses of West Ham United, Aminu Umar of Osmanlispor FK, Aaron Samuel of CSKA Moscow, Alex Iwobi of Arsenal FC and
Godwin Obaje of Wikki Tourists, equally have the chance of playing major roles in the Eagles’ attack.
Ex-international, Garba Lawal, told our correspondent on Friday that Ighalo’s current goal-scoring form wouldn’t matter when the Eagles face Egypt because the coach, Siasia, has invitedother strikers who can also lead Nigeria’s attack.
Lawal said, “Did anybody know that Ighalo will score 14 goals in the English Premier League? That is football for you. Sometimes things don’t work out for you. Every striker wants to score goals. I believe Ighalo will come back and score goals. It is left for the coach (Siasia) to choose the players who will make up his team.
“He has Chikatara in the squad; he has Adi and others. If he decides to use mainly home-based players, there is no problem with that. The important thing is for us to score goals and win the games. It does not matter who plays. Those two games are very important and it is not going to be easy because the Egypt national team are a strong side.”
Similarly, another former Eagles midfielder, Friday Ekpo, believes Ighalo will improve before the games against Egypt.
He added that the other strikers invited for the fixture were also equal to the task of scoring goals for Nigeria.
“It’s a pity that Ighalo has not been in goal-scoring form recently. It is a cause to worry about but it has to be understood that the English league is different from other leagues. I believe he will get back to form and continue to score goals again,” Ekpo said.
“If he does not score against Egypt and others score, we will still appreciate him. It doesn’t really matter who scores. The important thing is playing well as a team and winning the games.”
Meanwhile, Siasia has challenged the home-based players, who are already in the camp, to show they can be relied on in crucial games.
Siasia was apparently unimpressed by the performance of the players after they played a goalless draw against Nigeria National League side, Katsina United in a friendly game played inside the main bowl of the National Stadium, Abuja, on Thursday evening.
“We have to step up our commitment level and show more seriousness,” thenff.com quoted Siasia as saying.
“I am yet to see that hunger in all of you in all the friendly matches we have played so far since we opened this camp. We are facing Egypt in about two weeks and we will not stand any chance against them if we do not change our attitude.
“How can we, the Super Eagles, play against this NNL team and fail to create one clear-cut goal scoring opportunity? If we cannot create chances in this kind of games, when and where will we be able to create them? I know we are far better than this performance and will improve but we have to do so very quickly because there is no time.”
Since opening camp last Sunday in Abuja, the Eagles home stars have played three friendly games, two of which were against the 2016 Rio Olympics-bound Nigeria U-23 team and in all three games, they have scored twice and conceded twice.