IKENWA NNABUOGOR believes Odion Ighalo’s goals will land the Eagles in the Promised Land by July 19 in Cairo
Like the proverbial Phoenix, Shenhua Shanghai striker Odion Jude Ighalo has risen from a vicious flame of acrimony and criticisms to be the pride of the Super Eagles.
Ighalo was heavily criticized for missing chances at goal against Argentina in the final group tie to haul his country into the knockout stages at the last World Cup in Russia.
Undeterred, unfettered and full of confidence, the former Watford striker went back to China to continue banging the goals for his club to keep getting the nod from Eagles’ coach Gernot Rohr for another well-deserved chance.
True to Rohr’s confidence in his favoured marksman, Ighalo defied all odds to have his doubters and critics eat back their words by scoring his country’s way to the African Cup of Nations finals after missing the continental party back-to-back.
Still having business to do with Cameroon and Eagles faltering in the monumental 2-0 loss to less fancied Madagascar in the final group game and lacking the confidence and support from home fans, Ighalo fired his country’s hopes sky high with two well-taken goals.
Not only is he on course to grab the goleador’s top prize, Ighalo continued his tag as the Indomitable Lions’ killer having fired three past the five-time continental kings to put Nigeria in the driver’s seat over their arch rivals since 2000, when the Samuel Eto’O-inspired side beat Eagles before their home crowd to become African kings for the fourth time.
Twice he was denied the enviable honour of becoming the first Nigerian player to score an AFCON hat trick – first, the upright turned the ball back into play and Andre Onana parried gamely for the race to the honour to continue.
Perhaps, Ighalo could etch his name in the history books for his country on Wednesday when the one-sided rivalry South Africa continues.
Vintage Ighalo is primed to continue his superb vein of goals when the Rainbow Nation come to the party at Cairo International Stadium.
One thing is sure, the Bafana Bafana defenders will certainly have a tough customer in him, but how long they will prevent him from making hay will only be known on the hallowed pitch of Cairo.
Interestingly, the millions of Eagles’ fans’ hopes are on the powerful shoulders of the hitherto viciously maligned point man and smart money will be on him to propel Nigeria to the semis.
Yours truly has followed this interesting striker from his early days and believe he will take his country to a touching distance of landing the AFCON fourth title.
Grabbing the top scorer’s award is also not far-fetched now.
The next few days will tell…