CAIRO – Samuel Chukwueze couldn’t find the words to describe his emotions after scoring his first ever goal for the senior national team and turning in a performance which saw him named man of the match in the 2-1 quarterfinal victory over South Africa in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
The 20-year-old settled for “very, very happy” before confessing he “doesn’t even know how to express” the gamut of emotions coursing through him after Nigeria’s last gasp victory at the Cairo International Stadium.
Making just his second start in the tournament, the Villarreal of Spain forward whose introduction had sparked a revival in the team’s fortunes in the 3-2 last 16 win over defending champions Cameroon, turned in a scintillating performance capped with a goal – Nigeria’s opener in the 26th minute and could have had an assist but for a slightly over-hit pass to Odion Ighalo which Ronwen Williams raced off his line to save in the dying moments of the game.
Speaking after being presented with the Man-of-the-Match award, a clearly elated Chukwueze said the award justified all the hard work he puts in in training.
“I feel so happy to win the man of the match because it hasn’t been easy for me and the team and I’ve been working so hard in training. So, I’m very very happy to win the man of the match today because it wasn’t easy,” Chukwueze said.
Nigeria seemly had the match under control and dominated proceedings for long spells but a lull in intensity allowed South Africa back in through Bongani Zungu, whose goal off a set piece was given by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), after centre referee Rodouane Jiyed had initially ruled it out for offside.
Chukwueze, however, said at no point after conceding the equaliser did he feel the Super Eagles couldn’t still nick the win.
“I thought it was still possible for us to win the game because we were in the game already and we were pushing hard to win the game although it wasn’t easy but thank God it happened.”
The inverted winger who had been part of the U17 team that won the World Cup in Chile in 2015 said the joy of scoring his first senior goal in his first international tournament with the team was indescribable.
“This is my first major competition with the senior team and I’m so happy to win the man of the match award and to score my first international goal with the Super Eagles and it’s a dream come true for me. So, I’m very, very happy and I don’t even know how to express it.”
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