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With Victor Osimhen and Umar Sadiq both out of the Super Eagles squad, followers of the three-time African champions are waiting to see who fills the void left by the absence of the injured duo when the Eagles confront the Desert Foxes of Algeria on Tuesday in Oran.
When Osimhen got injured during Napoli’s 4-1 bashing of Liverpool on the opening day of the Champions League in Naples, not much concern was raised, with many expecting new Real Sociedad head huncho Sadiq, who had started the season brightly, to take his place in the Eagles attack.
However, Sadiq would that same weekend cop an injury that would potentially rule him out for the rest of the 2022/23 season.
Although, Eagles head coach Jose Peseiro favours a two-man pairing up front, one would lead the attack as evident with Osimhen in the AFCON qualifiers against Sierra Leone and Sao Tome and Principe, while the other plays a supporting role.
Now, a major opportunity has presented itself for other strikers to stake their claim for a starting berth as the Eagles’ leading man.
Peseiro invited 10 forwards for the friendly, with five possessing the ability to play in the centre of the forward line.
Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, FC Lorient’s Terem Moffi, Cremonese’s Cyriel Dessers, and Nottingham Forest duo and Taiwo Awoniyi, while injuries ruled out Emmanuel Dennis and Henry Onyekuru.
Moffi is the most in-form Nigerian striker at the moment with six goals in eight Ligue 1 games this season, and is the number one candidate expected to lead the Eagles’ attack in the absence of Osimhen and Sadiq.
Moffi, who grabbed a brace against Sao Tome in June, has been impressive in all the team’s training sessions since they set up camp in Constantine.
Eagles assistant coach, George Finidi, charged the 23-year-old to take his chance in the first team.
“Moffi has to do what he has to do to make it into the starting team,” Finidi told PUNCH Sports Extra.
For Awoniyi, his chances aren’t too bright. After enjoying a magnificent 2021/22 season in the Bundesliga with Union Berlin last season, he has had a slow start to his first season in the Premier League with Nottingham Forest, despite registering two goals, the most by a Nigerian plying their trade in the EPL.
Awoniyi was in action for the Eagles in the 2-2 stalemate against Algeria’s B team in Constantine on Friday and after the match spoke about his inability to hit the back of the net.
“Like I always say, every striker wants to score a goal, but there are more to striking roles than scoring. Your job also is to bring your teammates into play, to bring your teammates into positions where they can score a goal, but of course, I always want to score because your job as a striker is to score and help your teammates.”
Another Nigerian enduring a slow start to the season in the Premier League is Iheanacho. The Manchester City academy product has scored one goal in six EPL appearances for Leicester, who are already facing an early battle to avoid relegation.
Iheanacho last featured for Nigeria during the Eagles failed bid against Ghana to qualify for the World Cup last March.
The 25-year-old scored Nigeria’s only goal in the slim win over Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon in January, his 12th thus far in green and white.
But it’s unlikely he will walk straight into the line-up, with Peseiro keen to work with the players he was with during the last round of international duties.
Before Friday’s game against Algeria B, Dessers would have been unlikely to make a case for the starting line-up after failing to register a single goal for his new Serie A side Cremonese since joining at the end of the summer window.
Although he scored three goals in three games for KRC Genk before switching to Italy, he is yet to find the net after six games in Serie A.
Against Algeria on Friday, Dessers put his club woes behind to score his second Nigeria goal and put the Eagles 2-1 up, before Aymen Mahious drew Algeria level.
Having failed to meet expectations recently, there is a keen interest by Nigerians to watch the team that Peseiro will field to start against an Algeria side led by Manchester City attacker Riyad Mahrez.
Peseiro would be keen not to extend the three-game losing streak the Eagles currently hold in games against the Foxes, and picking the right man to spearhead his charge would go a long way in ensuring his team gets the desired result.