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Osimhen, Onyekuru battle to replace Ighalo

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In a tournament graced by Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mané and Riyad Mahrez, Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo won the Africa Cup of nations golden boot award. Egypt, Senegal and Algeria were all pre-tournament favourites, with the expectation that one of the trio of Premier League superstars would go home with the golden boot as well as the winner’s medal. Riyad Mahrez and Algeria did go home with the trophy, but our tactical analysis and scout report finds out how a former premier league star displayed the mastery of his art in Africa.

Marksman

Odion Ighalo is a lethal goal poacher who thrives in the opposition box. Perhaps it is no surprise to many who witnessed his finishing masterclass in Watford’s 2015/2016 Premier League season. After his five-goal salvo at AFCON 2019, the Shanghai Shenhua man announced his retirement from international football alongside John Obi Mikel; but was recognised in the AFCON team of the tournament.

AFCON 2019 qualifiers
Ighalo

AFCON: Create more scoring chances, Akanni urges Eagles’ midfielders(Opens in a new browser tab)

A well taken winner in Nigeria’s opening game followed a brace and an assist against Cameroon in the round of 16; a penalty equaliser in the semi-final against Algeria put him clear of the chasing pack, before consolidating his award with a poacher’s finish in the third-place match.

Odion Ighalo‘s goal frequency stood at a goal every 101 minutes; he clearly relished the team’s dependence on him as he was responsible for 56% of their goals, the most by any player at the tournament. Furthermore, 51% of Nigeria’s shots were in the 18 yard box where Ighalo is most dangerous.

His output could have been much better, however, having missed four big chances throughout the tournament. Two goals clear of his closest challengers on the goalscorers’ charts highlight the goalscoring form he was in; or perhaps how efficient his teammates were at creating chances for him.

Odion Ighalo is the sixth Nigerian after Segun Odegbami, Rashidi Yekini, Julius Aghahowa, Jay-Jay Okocha, and Emmanuel Emenike to win the AFCON golden boot. He also retires with a record of 16 goals in 35 caps, just under a goal every other game.

Conclusion

As this analysis has shown, the good old fox in the box triumphs in goalscoring at AFCON 2019; leaving the inverted wingers of Modern-day football a lesson or two on clinical finishing. The true art of goalscoring, the African style.

Who replaces Ighalo?

Odion Ighalo called time on his international career last weekend, drawing the curtain on a four-year tenure with the Super Eagles in which he scored 16 goals in 35 appearances.

Despite being criticised during his time with Nigeria—notably when he missed a decisive sitter as the West Africans fell to Argentina during the World Cup—Ighalo goes out on a high following the Africa Cup of Nations.

He scored five goals in the continental showpiece in Egypt, earning him the Golden Boot, and now goes out on a high.

However, how can Gernot Rohr replace the striker in whom he’s shown faith throughout his time at the helm?

Here are five options…

Kelechi Iheanacho       

The Leicester City striker has struggled to adapt to life at the King Power Stadium since being sold by Manchester City, and has paid with his place in the Nigeria squad.

He was cut from Rohr’s selection after netting just once in 30 Premier League outings last term, but at only 22, he has time on his side. If Iheanacho can rediscover the form he showed earlier in his career, at Leicester or elsewhere, then he can return to his rightful spot as Nigeria’s leading man.

Paul Onuachu

The towering forward may have—inadvertently—become Nigeria’s leading man following Ighalo’s exit, having been one of only two other strikers on Rohr’s list.

His goalscoring record in Denmark is excellent, while he also took to life as an international instantly with an early goal in a friendly against Egypt.

However, he’d change the style of football Nigeria play—being such a towering target man—while his relatively meagre playing time at the Afcon suggests Rohr isn’t completely convinced.

Henry Onyekuru

Unlike the other players on this list, Onyekuru isn’t a natural striker.

He’s made his name as a wideman during his career, while he was also trialled—and excelled—as left wing-back during a loan spell at Anderlecht.

However, what Onyekuru does have in his locker is goals; he scored 14 in the Super Lig for Galatasaray last term, and 27 across three seasons in the Belgian leagues with Eupen and then the Purple & White.

He’s found gametime hard to come by out wide—playing for just 12 minutes at the Nations Cup—and with Samuel Chukwueze and Samuel Kalu only likely to get stronger, a move to a more central role could suit all parties.

Victor Osimhen

The only other striker on Nigeria’s squad list for Russia was Osimhen, although he received even less playing time than Onuachu, managing just 45 minutes during the course of the competition.

The attacker is only 20, and while highly rated, can’t yet be considered a viable leading man for the national side.

With more regular playing time at club level, for Sporting Charleroi in Belgium, Osimhen can refine his craft, while Ighalo’s retirement should raise his place in Nigeria’s pecking order.

Tammy Abraham

Nigeria tried to recruit Abraham before, only to have their fingers burned—in somewhat humiliating fashion—as the Chelsea striker rejected the NFF’s overtures in order to represent England.

However, two years down the line, despite having featured for the Three Lions in friendlies, he’s yet to make a competitive debut and hasn’t been called up since.

Now back at Chelsea after a productive loan spell at Aston Villa, Abraham may find himself back in Gareth Southgate’s sights, but if not, he could be a replacement for—and even an upgrade on—Ighalo.

Culled from Goal.com

Vanguard

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