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‘Self-Exiled’ Odion Ighalo returns to Super Eagles for World Cup qualifiers  

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Odion Ighalo who retired from the Super Eagles after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations appears to be making a return to the squad.

He is one of the 24 players invited for Nigeria’s last two group matches later this month.

The matches are the away duel with Liberia in Morocco and a home game with Cape Verde in Lagos.

Ighalo who stunned the transfer market last year with a dramatic sign-up with Manchester United to become only the second Nigerian to feature for the elite Premier League side now plays for Al-Shabab Riyadh of Saudi Arabia.

He joins the usual suspects in the armoury of Gernot Rohr which include team captain, Ahmed Musa, deputy captain William Ekong, defenders Kenneth Omeruo and Leon Balogun.

Others are midfielders Wilfred Ndidi and Alex Iwobi, forwards Moses Simon and Victor Osimhen.

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The Super Eagles tackle the Lone Star of Liberia at the Grand Stade Tangier in Morocco on Saturday, 13th November.

It will be the second time since 18 April 1976 that Nigeria will be playing at the converging city of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

It was in Tangier that the then Green Eagles picked the ticket  to the ill-fated Montreal ‘76 Olympics which Nigeria later boycotted.

The Super Eagles will be treading a similar path should they beat Liberia in Tangier to confirm their eternal leadership of Group C of the World Cup qualifiers.

From Tangier, the Super Eagles will fly into Lagos for the final group game against Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks at the Teslim Balogun Stadium on Tuesday, 16th November.

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Top of their pool with nine points but hotly chased by seven-pointer Cape Verde who host Central African Republic on the island of Mindelo, the Eagles need the three points against the Lone Star on the neutral turf of Morocco’s principal northern city to remain on firm ground when hosting the Blue Sharks three days later in Nigeria’s commercial and industrial capital.

Leicester City of England’s midfield enforcer Wilfred Ndidi, who missed the last round of games home-and-away against Central African Republic, is back in the trough, just as fellow Premiership boy Alex Iwobi and Spain-based forward Samuel Chukwueze.

According to a press release by the Nigeria Football Federation, the invited players and overseas-based members of the technical crew are to report directly to the city of Tangier on Monday, 8th November while technical officials from Nigeria are to report in Tangier the same day.

EAGLES FOR LONE STAR & BLUE SHARKS

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

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Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor FC, Turkey); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Abdullahi Shehu (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal); Kevin Akpoguma (TSG Hoffenheim, Germany)

Midfielders: Frank Onyeka (Brentford FC, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Galsgow Rangers, Scotland); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Victor Osimhen (Napoli FC, Italy); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Odion Jude Ighalo (Al-Shabab Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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