SUPER Eagles skipper Mikel Obi is expected to formally announce his retirement from international football after the team ended its sojourn at the 32nd African Cup of Nations yesterday with a 1-0 over Tunisia victory in the third place play-off match.
After losing 1-2 to Algeria’s Desert Foxes in the semi final, the Eagles ended their participation in Egypt 19 yesterday with a victory that secured the bronze medal. Thanks to a third minute goal from Odion Ighalo, who is now on course to take home the golden boot as his tally of goals totals five, Nigeria overcame the Tunisians in what turned out to be little more than a drab training session.
Head coach Gernot Rohr made two changes to the squad that lost in the semi finals, playing Francis Uzoho in goal ahead of Daniel Akpeyi and starting Ola Aina as rightback in place of Chigozie Awaziem who was suspended. Uzoho looked very assured in goal as he kept a clean sheet, raising the question about whether Nigeria would not have beaten Algeria had he played in the semi finals.
After going ahead early on thanks to a Tunisian goalkeeping error made worse by a defensive mix-up, the Eagles kind of lost interest in yesterday’s game. Similarly, the Tunisians had little fight in them as both teams struggled to pick themselves up after the disappointment of missing out on the final.
Sadly for Nigeria though, Ighalo had to leave the pitch just before halftime with a hamstring injury, allowing Mr Rohr to bring on the youngster Victor Osimhen as a replacement. Mikel, still recovering from injury, appeared not fit enough to get on the pitch for his swansong, however.
Mr Rohr confirmed Mikel’s time with the national team is over, adding that he was already looking for replacements for the midfielder. Mikel first featured for the Eagles in 2005, when he came on as a second-half substitute in a 1–0 friendly win over Libya and then went on to make his competitive debut in the 2006 Nations Cup in Tunisia where he scored on his debut in a 2-0 victory over Zimbabwe.
Over a 14 year period, Mikel amassed a total of 91 caps, making him Nigeria’s third most capped player behind Joseph Yobo and Vincent Enyeama. He scored six international goals during his Super Eagles career and has an African Nations Cup goal medal and three bronzes to his name.
Mr Rohr said: “We have to salute Mikel’s great career. He didn’t play in the qualifiers but it was good for the team that he is here.
“Now we have to look at others but we don’t have many midfielders in top clubs. We have Ajayi, Iwobi, Etebo and Ndidi but we have to work hard to find a replacement.”
With yesterday’s win, Nigeria now has a record eight African Cup of Nations bronze medals to its name. It might just be that winning bronze has secured Mr Rohr’s job as he fans have been calling for his head over the semi final loss but Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick has said the coach will see out his contract which lasts until December and in the meantime, he will go on a refresher course at Bayern Munich.