Super Eagles boss Gernot Rohr has asked fans for “a little patience” with Odion Ighalo after the striker turned in an underwhelming performance in the 1-1 draw with Cape Verde on Tuesday.
The game marked Ighalo’s first for the national team in over two years after he called time on his international career following the 2019 Cup of Nations.
His inclusion in the squad at the expense of much younger forwards such as Taiwo Awoniyi and Emmanuel Dennis had generated plenty of criticism and the 32-year-old Al Shabaab forward did little to answer his critics with an anodyne performance against the Blue Sharks.
Named in the starting line-up to partner Victor Osimhen in attack with Kelechi Iheancho relegated to the bench, Ighalo failed to justify his place and was guilty of several misses that could have hurt Nigeria as the Eagles held on for dear life towards the end of the match.
Speaking after the match, Rohr insisted there were several positives from Ighalo’s showing and pointed to what he believes to be the beginning of a promising partnership between the former Manchester United striker and Osimhen.
The former Gabon coach maintained that the budding partnership could be a lethal weapon and help Nigeria achieve great success at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
Rohr said having been away from the national side for a long time, Ighalo will need a bit of time to rediscover his chemistry with the rest of the team and called for fans to show some patience.
“You need a little patience with Ighalo,” Rohr said. “He was not with us since more than one year. So we need a little more time again to find the complicity, the harmony.”
“I think we saw interesting things together with Osimhen on the side of Ighalo. Osimhen will grow, he will learn a lot.
“I’m sure that now for the AFCON we can prepare for these two players something which is more harmonious. Today was a final, a very special game, and they were not bad together, and I think the chances we had were also coming with the help of Ighalo.
“So let’s have a little patience. Give us a little time to work with them together, and the goals will come again.”
The draw with Cape Verde meant Nigeria progressed to the final qualifying round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The Super Eagles will face one of the other nine group winners in a two-legged, home-and-away knockout with aggregate winners going on to Qatar 2022.
The draws for the playoffs hold on 18 December with the matches scheduled for March 2022.
Before then, Nigeria will compete at the Africa Cup of Nations, which kicks off in Cameroon in January.
The Super Eagles have been drawn alongside Egypt, Guinea-Bissau and Sudan in Group D.