Football Soccer Nigerias Osimhen star of the show except in front
Football Soccer Nigerias Osimhen star of the show except in front

Football: Soccer-Nigeria’s Osimhen star of the show, except in front of goal

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – If the call from Nigeria’s coach for more goals from his team at the Africa Cup of Nations is to be heeded then the recently crowned African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen has to strap on his scoring boots.

It has been the only gap in Osimhen’s immense contribution as Nigeria have powered their way to the semi-finals at the tournament in the Ivory Coast, where they will meet South Africa in Bouake on Wednesday for a place in the final.

Osimhen, 25, has been the standout performer at the finals with his impressive work rate, pressing high on defenders and forcing turnovers, running off the ball into space and keeping it up for the entire game despite the soaring heat and humidity. Those in the stands have marvelled at his fitness and fight.

But last season’s top Serie A scorer, whose 26 goals took Napoli to their first title since 1990, has only netted once at the tournament where the much fancied Super Eagles have scored six times in five games to reach the last four.

Nigeria got past Angola in the quarter-finals with a 1-0 win for a fourth clean sheet in a row.

“Once again, we played without conceding and scored a goal, but I would have liked to see more. The team had the potential to generate more chances,” coach Jose Peseiro said. “We possess a talented team, but I want us to be more efficient.”

It has not been without trying for Osimhen and his team mates.

“All of us are desperate to make up for failing to reach the 2022 World Cup. The only way we can achieve that goal is by winning the Cup of Nations,” Osimhen said earlier in the tournament.

“We are capable of winning this tournament because the squad is packed with players who are performing exceptionally well for their European clubs,” added the striker who has himself struggled with injury this season and been involved in a row with his club over social media posts.

Osimhen has scored eight goals this term as seventh-placed Napoli have struggled in the defence of their title and he is set to leave at the end of the season.

There will be no lack of suitors, however, given how he has performed in the Ivory Coast and a few more Cup of Nations goals would make the energetic forward even more appealing.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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