SUPER Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr is expected to commence on a large scale rebuilding exercise involving the introduction of new players following the retirement of several of his stalwarts including skipper Mikel Obi and striker Odion Ighalo.
On Wednesday, the Eagles won their eighth African Cup of Nations bronze medal by beating Tunisia 1-0 in the third place play-off of the ongoing African Cup of Nations and immediately after the game, Mikel and Ighalo announced their retirement from international football. Both players are in their 30s and other players above 30 including Leon Balogun and John Ogu are now expected to make way as part of the rebuilding process.
Mikel, 32, said: “Egypt is a country where I started and have finished my national career. In 2006, I played my first official championship for my country and the 2019 African Cup of Nations marks my last championship for the national team with Super Eagles.
“My national career started in 2003 at the Under 17 World Cup and I am grateful to the national team for placing me on the world arena and giving me an opportunity to show my skills and have an incredible national and international career. At the age of 32, it’s time for me to retire from the national team and let the youth take over, we’ve done an amazing job by securing a bronze medal at Afcon 2019.”
Over the course of his long career, Mikel won the African Nations Cup in 2013, a silver medal at the U20 World Cup and a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. he thanked Nigerian supporters for their trust, support and love which they have shown to him over the past 15 years.
Ighalo, whose goal helped Nigeria beat Tunisia 1-0 on Wednesday night, informed Coach Rohr of his decision before leaving to join his club in China immediately after the game. A late bloomer, Ighalo made his senior debut for Nigeria in 2015 as the Eagles lost 1-0 to Uganda in a friendly and went on to make 35 appearances for Nigeria, scoring 16 goals.
Mr Rohr has already said he is going to look at bringing new and young players into the team as Nigeria prepares for the 2022 World Cup and the 2021 African Cup of Nations in Cameroon. Already, the Eagles have been drawn up against Sierra Leone, Benin Republic and Lesotho for Cameroon 2019.