Super Eagles striker Victor Osimhen believes his presence in Nigeria’s final 23-man squad at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt shows that “hard work pays off” and says the national team’s coaching crew deserves praise for “allowing me to come here and add my quality to the team”.
The 20-year-old’s inclusion in Gernot Rohr’s final list did not come as a total shock but still generated plenty reaction after the player who had been capped just four times for the national team and was only involved for five minutes in the qualifiers (in the 2-0 loss to South Africa in Uyo) was selected for the AFCON ahead of the more established Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho.
Osimhen, whose ten goals when Nigeria won the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile remains a record for the most goals scored at a single U17 World Cup says he was always confident of making the plane to Egypt especially after the excellent season he had for Belgian Jupiler Pro League side RSC Charleroi for whom he scored 20 goals in all competitions.
“I was hoping to be [at the Nations Cup] like every other player was hoping to be there,” Osimhen told busybuddiesng.com in an exclusive chat at the Helnan Palestine Hotel base of the team in Alexandria ahead of their last Group B match against Madagascar today.
“But I think for me, I had a good season with Charleroi likewise most of the players in the squad had a very good season in their various clubs and I think I’ve worked so hard to be here, and I think hard work pays off. I was really happy and grateful to God and also to the coaching staff for allowing me to come here and add my quality to the team and I’m really grateful for that.”
Osimhen is yet to get off the mark for the Super Eagles and as yet, hasn’t featured at the tournament but with Nigeria already through to the knockout stages and needing just a draw to win the group, the striker could make his AFCON debut in the 5pm kickoff against Madagascar at the Alexandria Stadium today.
However, in the absence of playing time in Egypt, the player says he has been learning from the more experienced players in the squad and pays particular attention to picking up tips from team captain John Mikel Obi whom he eulogized for his exemplary leadership.
“I think professionalism [is what I’ve learnt from the more experienced players] because like the captain [Obi], he has been nothing but a top professional for many years and you can see the way he organizes the team,” Osimhen said.
“It’s not just about the coaching staff, it’s not just about the player but about him also, his personality is on top of this world and he jokes with us whenever it is needed and I think for us he makes us comfortable around him to be able to speak with him, to be able to joke with him and laugh with him. I think for me there is no better feeling to justify this. I think the captain has been top in his way of leading us.”
Although Osimhen’s permanent transfer to RSC Charleroi where he spent last season on loan from parent club VFL Wolfsburg should be ratified in a few days, there is still plenty speculation that the Belgian side might look to cash in on him in this transfer window.
The player, however, says his future will be decided after the AFCON but, in any case, he hopes to build on the momentum which saw him score twenty goals for his club side.
“I want to build on the momentum, it is important for me to continue from where I stopped with my club,” he tells busybuddiesng.com about his plans for the forthcoming European football season.
“I would decide my future after the AFCON tournament and see where this can take me to but whatsoever decision I make, I want to continue from where I stopped I want to keep on doing well and scoring goals for my clubs and this is the most important thing for me.”