A couple of youngsters that helped Nigeria triumph at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup have made the step up to the senior national team, but one of that tournament’s standout performers is still awaiting his chance
Liverpool striker Taiwo Awoniyi has expressed his belief that he has done enough over the past few years to have merited a call-up to the Super Eagles, even if it is just for a friendly encounter.
Awoniyi scored four goals at United Arab Emirates 2013 to power the Golden Eaglets to their fourth title at the fifteenth tournament of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
That victorious Nigerian youth team also had attackers Isaac Success and Kelechi Iheanacho as well as goalkeepers Dele Alampasu and Francis Uzoho. Each of them has earned at least a cap for the Super Eagles.
Awoniyi’s inability to feature for Nigeria’s senior team has robbed the youngster of the opportunity to earn a work permit, which would have boosted his chances of playing for Liverpool in the Premier League.
The 22-year-old has had loan spells at five different European clubs, but he felt his exploits last year at Belgian side Royal Mouscron – where he scored 21 goals and provided ten assists in 47 games – should have seen him get an international cap.
“I’m happy for [Kelechi] Iheanacho and Uzoho because they are deserving of the opportunity,” he told BBC Sport Africa.
“Personally, I feel like I deserve a chance. I recall when I was playing well and scoring goals in Belgium. Nigeria had a friendly game, and I thought I had done enough to get a look in that would hopefully enhance my quest for a UK work permit, but I was overlooked.
“You begin to understand that it’s not something you can control or have power over. You just need to enjoy what you do and keep on working hard.”
Awoniyi spent last season on loan at Bundesliga side Mainz, and he is likely to be sent on loan again next campaign as his work permit issues remain a stumbling block for his Anfield breakthrough.