INSIDE AFCON 2019: How Odion Ighalo Shut His Critics Up With His Feet

Super Eagles of Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo has shut his critics up after officially announcing his retirement from the national team following his award of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Golden Boot.

Ighalo was awarded the top scorer’s prize in Egypt on Friday after scoring five goals in seven appearances for the Super Eagles.

The 30-year-old began his international career in the U20 team and later made his senior debut during an international friendly match against Uganda in March 2015.

His 16 goals from 35 matches ranks him as the seventh all-time highest goalscorer in the national team history.

One of the key reasons for retiring from international football, according to the former Watford striker, was to allow the younger generation of Eagles to ‘learn and grow’.

“This is one of the most difficult career decisions I have had to take. It’s been an amazing 5 years journey, but after due consultation and extensive discussion with my family I have decided it’s time for me to retire from the national team,” Ighalo wrote on his official Instagram page.

“It has been an eventful and most memorable opportunity to serve my country with pride, passion and to contribute my quota to the development of our football, the memories would stay with me for a long time and I’m immensely grateful.

“It is now time to concentrate on club football and give the younger players the chance to learn and grow. I would love to thank the NFF, coach Gernot Rohr for believing in me against all odds, to my teammates for their professionalism and team spirit, without you guys I wouldn’t have achieved so much with this team.

“To Nigerian football fans all over the world, I say thank you, you were always there to cheer us on and our 12th player every time we step onto the pitch. I will be watching and cheering the Super Eagles from this side. Thank you… Signing out.”

Ighalo, who picked up an injury in Nigeria’s third-place match against Tunisia after scoring the only goal of the match and his fifth of the tournament, will now focus on helping Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League, where he scored seven goals in nine league outings prior to the 2019 AFCON.

Ighalo faced much criticism when Nigeria were knocked out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup by Argentina – where he was blamed for missing a goal that could have assured the Super Eagles a spot in the Round of 16.

After the 2019 AFCON, Ighalo walks head held high after proving his quality, winning a golden boot, and writing his name in Nigeria’s record books.

For a player who scored over 30 goals in his four-year stint in England, what a way to drop the mic!