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Napoli star Victor Osimhen to miss Nigeria's matches with South Africa & Benin Republic

Osimhen is Nigeria's star man
Osimhen is Nigeria's star manAFP
Nigeria head into June’s 2026 World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin Republic without striker Victor Osimhen (25).

This news no doubt is a major blow to the Super Eagles’ ambitions of qualifying for the global football showpiece owing to his awe-inspiring form for Serie A outfit Napoli in the 2023/24 campaign.

Since making his senior international debut in 2021, Osimhen has been a major force in the Nigerian squad, scoring 21 times in 35 appearances to move to third on the all-time goalscorers’ chart.

However, the former Lille man will now have to wait until March 2025 to add to his tally that could see him eclipse Segun Odegbami’s mark of 22 international goals.

So, why is he out and who is replacing him in Finidi George’s squad? Flashscore brings everything you need to know.

Why is Osimhen not playing?

Injury is the reason for Osimhen’s absence from the Super Eagles fixtures against Bafana Bafana and the Squirrels.

Napoli's top scorer was in action as his team played out a 0-0 draw with Lecce in their last league game, replacing Jens Cajuste in the 65th minute. Prior to that outing, he had missed Napoli’s 2-2 draw with rival Fiorentina due to muscular fatigue.

Although the reason for the fitness concern is unknown, the former Lille goal machine is expected to be out of action for at least four weeks, according to the Nigeria Football Federation.

Who will replace Osimhen in the squad?

The reigning African Player of the Year has been replaced replayed by Enugu Rangers left-back Kenneth Igboke. This development was confirmed by a tweet by the Super Eagles on social media.

Born in Nsukka in Enugu, the 19-year-old is one of the rising stars in the Nigeria Professional Football League.

Despite his defensive duties, Igboke’s overlapping runs and pinpoint crosses are a key part of Enugu Rangers’ attacking play, while his pace and strength allowed him to track back and defend when needed.

What has been said about Osimhen's injury?

Former Nigeria international Kwambe Solomon feels there is enough quality in the Super Eagles squad to cover for Osimhen's absence.

“It's unfortunate that Osimhen will not be playing against Benin Republic and South Africa. He has had an excellent season with Napoli, and we were naturally looking forward to him bringing that fine form to the Super Eagles,” he told Flashscore.

“His fighting spirit and goal-scoring zeal will undoubtedly be missed. However, I believe coach Finidi George has quality players in his squad who can step up in his absence.

“Osimhen is such an unplayable striker, and our opponents will likely be relieved not to face him, knowing the damage he can cause on a good day.”

Who else is missing for Nigeria?

As well as Osimhen, the three-time African champions will be without Bayer Leverkusen star Nathan Tella.

Having been axed from the country’s squad to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations squad in Cote d’Ivoire, the 24-year-old was recalled due to his blistering form with the reigning German champions. Sadly though, he has asked to be excused from the squad due to family reasons. 

Tella has been replaced by Rizespor midfielder Ibrahim Olawoyin. Olawoyin contributed eight goals and three assists in 36 games for the Turkish top-flight side.

What’s next for Finidi George’s Nigeria?

Nigeria face South Africa on June 7th at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium before heading to Abidjan’s Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny three days later for a date with Gernot Rohr’s Benin Republic.

Following a shaky start to the qualifiers, they occupy the third spot in Group C having accrued just two points in two matches played so far.

The Super Eagles missed out on Qatar 2022 following a playoff defeat to eternal rivals Ghana. They last qualified for the global football tournament in 2018 in Russia.

Updated squad:

Goalkeepers: Stanley Nwabali (Chippa United, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Udinese, Italy); Ojo Olorunleke (Enyimba)

Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem (Boavista, Portugal); Bright Osayi-Samuel (Fenerbahce, Turkey); Sadiq Ismael (Remo Stars); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England); Calvin Bassey (Fulham, England); Benjamin Tanimu (Ihefu, Tanzania); Kenneth Igboke (Enugu Rangers)

Midfielders: Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester, England); Raphael Onyedika (Club Brugge, Belgium); Alhassan Yusuf Abdullahi (Royal Antwerp, Belgium); Frank Onyeka (Brentford, England); Alex Iwobi (Fulham, England); Fisayo Dele-Bashiru (Hatayspor, Turkey); Ibrahim Olawoyin (Rizespor)

Forwards:  Victor Osimhen (Napoli, Italy); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester, England); Samuel Chukwueze (AC Milan, Italy); Paul Onuachu (Trabzonspor, Turkey); Ademola Lookman (Atalanta, Italy); Victor Boniface (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany); Terem Moffi (OGC Nice, France)

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