Super Eaglesâ€™ OghenekaroÂ Etebo gained his first international attention when he equalled a 44-year-old Olympics record by scoring four goals in a single game at Rio 2016. Recently, Etebo moved to Spanish side, Las Palmas, and was impressive in his first game against Malaga. His effort did not go unnoticed as he has been invited for the Super Eagles friendly match against Polland and Serbia as part of Nigeria’s preparation for the World Cup in Russia. Kunle Adewale writes about how Etebo may warm his way to Russia 2018
L as Palmas has confirmed that Oghenekaro Etebo has been invited for Super Eagles friendly matches against Poland and Serbia. The Super Eagles are scheduled to play five preparatory matches before the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia; however, Nigeriaâ€™s football body has sent a letter to the Spanish side for the first two matches.
A statement on the clubâ€™s website stated: â€œEtebo has been summoned by Nigeria for the two friendly matches that the African team will play in Poland,Â March 23Â and against Serbia in London,Â March 27.â€
It further stated that the club will comply with FIFAâ€™s rules:
â€œIn accordance with the provisions of the FIFA regulations on the ‘Statute and Transfer of Players’, UD Las Palmas will release the player so that he can travel to Poland, since he must join with his team on Monday, March 19.â€
Etebo, who moved during the summer transfer window, declared he did not come to Las Palmas to sit on the bench, and has backed up his statement with impressive performances.
Etebo was the standout player at the Estadio Gran Canaria on his La Liga debut for Las Palmas against Malaga penultimateMondayÂ night’s relegation battle.
The Nigeria midfielder stood out in the middle of the park with his dynamic movement, effective ball distribution, tactical discipline and his high energy level.
Speaking after completing a six-month loan switch to the Canary Islands-based team from CD Feirense of Portugal, the 22-year-old didn’t mince words about his objectives at the club.
“I’m ready to play, but it all depends on the coach. I’m ready, I’m fit, I did not come to be on the bench, but it all depends on the coach,” he told Las Palmas’ website.
“I am comfortable as an extreme. I came to help the team. I do not care if I score or if I assist, what I want is for my team to get the three points.”
Reacting to Etebo five-star performance against MalagaÂ on MondayÂ night, former Nigeria international,Â FridayÂ Ekpo, said he was not surprised.
â€œHe is one of the most consistent goal poachers to have emerged from the country in recent years. When he was at Warri Wolves, he justified his shirt. So, why should anyone be amazed that he is doing well and also returning to the national team . His greatest strength is his consistency and humility,â€ the former Shell of Gabon told THISDAY.
At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, in spite of Nigeria arriving few hours to kick-off,Â Etebo went on to equal a 44-year old record after scoring four goals in the teamâ€™s opener against Japan.
After the four-goal feat, Oghenekaro stated that he would prefer being an Olympic gold medalist to being the tournamentâ€™s top scorer. But little did he know he had achieved a greater accomplishment with his four goals – a 44 year old record set when West Germanyâ€™s Bernd Nickel scored four goals against USA in Munich was equaled.
â€œThank God it has happened, but what Iâ€™m most excited about was the victory. Iâ€™m very happy because it was a great joy, although it wasnâ€™t easy due to the stress and all that. If I had scored but we lost, itâ€™s not going to be too fantastic. Iâ€™m happy weâ€™re topping the group, and Iâ€™m really happy about the goals. I didnâ€™t expect it at all. Iâ€™m not going for personal glory but team glory, which to me means winning gold. Without the gold, itâ€™s going to be painful because achieving that is important for me, for Nigerians and for my team-mates,â€ he had told FIFA.com then.
In Eteboâ€™s first ever Nigerian Premier League match as an 18-year old, he scored a hat-trick and at the end of that season, he finished as the leagueâ€™s second-highest goal scorer.
â€œIâ€™m not that perfect but I believe, like my coach says, once you get a chance, its better you convert it because you donâ€™t know when youâ€™re going to get another one. Iâ€™m not a special striker or fantastic goal scorer, but itâ€™s better to be at the right place at the right time to score good goals,â€ he said.
During the CAF U-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal, the qualifying tournament for Rio 2016 for the continent, Etebo finished as the tournamentâ€™s top marksman.
Etebo made his international debut in July 2013 against Cote dâ€™Ivoire in a 2â€“0 loss in Abidjan during the 2014 African Nations Championship qualification campaign. In the summer of 2014, he went on trial at Italian Serie A side Udinese and was to be offered a contract after impressing, but a fee could not be agreed with Warri Wolves, so he returned to Nigeria.
In December 2015, he helped the Nigerian U-23 Team to the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations triumph in Senegal; finishing top scorer with 5 goals, including a brace in a 2â€“1 win against Algeria in the final.
In 2016, he won the Most Promising Talent of the Year award at the CAF Awards in Abuja.
He joined CD Feirense as a free player after his contract with Warri Wolves FC expired at the end of the 2014/15 season.
Etebo has regularly caught the eye throughout his career, right from making his professional debut for Warri Wolves in the 2012/13 Nigeria Professional Football League season, and it was only a case of keeping him on the right track and ensuring he remained focused on the bigger picture ahead.
Despite experiencing two major setbacks in his young career – failure to make the Super Eagles’ 23-man squad for the 2014 African Nations Championship and to complete a transfer to Udinese of Italy in 2014 – Etebo has not been deterred.
Instead, he continued to improve.
After helping his new club to a 1-0 victory over Malaga on his debut, he is unhappy as they failed to secure the maximum points against Jose Angel Zigandaâ€™s side in his second game.
â€œTough game last night against a good team. Disappointed not to take all three points but pleased with another clean sheet and point away from home. Our fans were brilliant once again,â€ Etebo posted on Instagram.
Playing the full game, the playercould do little as Las Palmas settled for their 15th draw in the Spanish top-flight this season which leaves them in the relegation zone.
Etebo will be looking to help his side bounce back to winning ways when they take on Sevilla today, February 17.