On July 17, 2019, Odion Ighalo shocked many when he announced his international retirement following Nigeria’s 1-0 win over Tunisia in the third-place match of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
It was an announcement that surprised many as Ighalo had finished as the top scorer in the tournament with five goals, including the goal in the third-place match.
However, while it was an announcement that took many by surprise, it had been coming for a while. Ighalo had initially threatened to retire after he was blamed by Nigerians for the country’s exit at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Ighlo missed some chances in the team’s final group match against Argentina, which later cost the team as they lost 2-1.
Following the game, he received threats and insults on his Instagram page, which forced him to lock his comments section.
As a result, he contemplated retirement but was talked out of it by Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Amaju Pinnick.
But Rohr could not do anything about it when he decided to end his international career a year later. Nonetheless, the German tactician did not give up hope, trying to convince the former Manchester United striker to change his decision.
Rohr has been talking to Ighalo over a potential comeback since he achieved his dream of playing for Man Utd in the Premier League.
But Ighalo has always stuck with his decision to stay retired. However, almost three years after he retired, the 32-year-old has now accepted Rohr’s call, and he is back in international football.
But what finally changed Ighalo’s mind?
Well, Soccernet can confirm that the opportunity to play in another Africa Cup of Nations and potentially another World Cup finally convinced Ighalo to come out of international retirement.
During a recent trip to Germany, Rohr informed Pinnick that he had given Ighalo the ultimatum to make himself available for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Liberia and Cape Verde if he wants to play in another major tournament.
And with AFCON just two months away and the World Cup a year away, Ighalo believes it is an opportunity to represent Nigeria at another major competition.
The former Watford striker is a late bloomer on the international stage as he did not make his debut for the Super Eagles until he was 26.
He has only represented Nigeria at two tournaments, which is why next year’s AFCON and World Cup provide him with another opportunity.
Ighalo’s return has not been well-received by many Nigerians as he comes back at a time when the Super Eagles are blessed with many attacking talents.
However, Rohr believes his experience is still needed in the team. If that’s true, we do not know, but time will tell.