Former Barcelona winger Emmanuel Amunike has revealed his disappointment at the unavailability of Victor Osimhen for the Super Eagles at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
Amunike and Osimhen have a storied history together, and it was the former Tanzania head coach who discovered the Napoli ace as a talented teenager.
After recruiting him for the Golden Eaglets, Amunike later unleashed Osimhen on the rest of the world at the 2015 U-17 World Cup. The youngster scored an unprecedented ten goals to power Nigeria to the title.
Osimhen has since become one of the most sought-after strikers in the game. After finishing as Nigeria’s top goalscorer during the Afcon and World Cup qualifiers, the 23-year-old was expected to lead the Super Eagles’ attack in Cameroon.
But a combination of injury and COVID-19 denied Osimhen the chance to be with his international teammates at the Afcon despite his struggles to be fit for the competition.
Amunike is saddened by his compatriot’s ill luck, but the 1994 African Player of the Year believes it is a temporary setback for a striker destined for greatness.
“We (Nigerians) would have liked to see players like Victor Osimhen who is doing very well in a very tough league in Italy,” Amunike told Cafonline.
“But the most important in life is health, and we pray he will regain his health very quickly. He will play other tournaments for his country and certainly the World Cup qualifying play-offs.
“Oshimen is a young footballer, but he is part of the present and future of Nigerian, African, and world football. It’s sad not to see him at TotalEnergies AFCON, but he will be there soon.
In Osimhen’s absence, and despite the unavailability of Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis, Al Shabab’s Odion Ighalo, and Genk’s Paul Onuachu, Super Eagles interim coach Augustine Eguavoen has still been able to call on a few talented attackers.
Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, Union Berlin’s goal-king Taiwo Awoniyi, and Almeria hotshot Umar Sadiq know their ways to goal. And they will be ably supported by the unique skills of Villarreal dazzler Samuel Chukwueze and CSKA Moscow dribbler Chidera Ejuke, among others.
Amunike is convinced that this pool of talents can fuel Nigeria’s bid for a fourth continental triumph.
He continued: “Despite everything, the selected players have a lot of quality. Nigeria will bravely defend their chances in this competition.”
The Super Eagles begin their Afcon challenge with a clash of the titans’ matchup against seven-time champions Egypt before squaring up against Sudan and Guinea-Bissau in Group D.