The 2013 Afcon champions head to the 2021 tournament without several key players, including the brilliant Napoli record signing
Watford defender William Troost-Ekong has expressed his faith in the group of players in the Super Eagles camp ahead of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
The Eagles have endured a difficult spell in the days leading to the 33rd edition of the Nations Cup. Head coach Gernot Rohr was sacked and replaced immediately with the head of the NFF Technical Department, Augustine Eguavoen.
In charge for just a couple of weeks, Eguavoen has had to deal with a truckload of issues, including the withdrawal of key stars due to injuries and clubs refusing to release invited players.
Napoli forward Victor Osimhen initially made the Super Eagles’ final 28-man cut but had to pull out due to injury and COVID-19.
With nine goals during the Afcon and World Cup qualifiers, Osimhen is Nigeria’s leading striker. And the 2015 U-17 World Cup winner and record top goalscorer was expected to light up the Afcon and lead the national team’s hunt for a fourth continental crown.
In his absence, Union Berlin’s in-form forward Taiwo Awoniyi and Almeria’s hotshot Umar Sadiq will add firepower to an attack that already boasts Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho.
And Troost-Ekong believes the Afcon debutants have the chance to step up to be counted and make a name for themselves and their fatherland.
“We’re lucky we have many players that score goals for their clubs and are in form, and that’s the beauty of tournament football,” the Super Eagles’ vice-captain said at Tuesday’s press conference.
“There are always new players that will stand up and show themselves.
“At the last Afcon, Victor only played, I think, in the last game. Since then, we talk about Victor; we talk about Ighalo. And this tournament, I’m sure there will be new players who will stand up to fill their shoes.”
Osimhen had started the 2021-22 season in stunning style, terrorising defences and smashing in goals in the Italian Serie A and the Europa League for Napoli.
Troost-Ekong admits it would be difficult to replace such an excellent striker, but the former Udinese centre-back insists it is up to every Super Eagles star to contribute their quota to team success.
“Of course, we are going to miss Victor very much. He’s probably one of the hottest strikers in the world right now. There will be incredible pressure on the other players.
“We feel bad for Victor for not being here because he tried so hard to be here. We know he struggled with his injury, but unfortunately, he’s not here.
“But all the boys that are here in camp with us are going to fill that void, and I’m confident that we’re going to play to do that,” Troost-Ekong concluded.