With 27 goals in all competitions for his Belgian club- Genk, Paul Onuachu is no doubt Nigeria’s hottest property in Europe, at least in front of goal. Yet, he could only make the stand-by list when Gernot Rohr released the Super Eagles 24-man team for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier games against Benin and Lesotho. However, with Nantes winger Moses Simon unable to make the trip, Onuachu has been called up as replacement. Having not been able to reciprocate club’s form in the national team before now, it remains to be seen if the red-hot striker could convince the Eagles manager this time around
Having now been handed a Nigeria call-up for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against the Republic of Benin and Lesotho as a replacement for Nantes winger Moses Simon, the onus is now on Racing Genk striker forward, Paul Onuachu to re-enact his club’s form in the national team and earn the trust of the Super Eagles Manager Gernot Rohr.
reason behind placing Onuachu on stand-by for this month’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in spite of his phenomenal run of goals so far this season, Rohr said the decision was a chance to give another player a look in the same position.
“It is because I want to see somebody else,” Rohr explained. “We saw him already, we know him, we know his strengths. He was a little bit unlucky each time when he has to play. It is the last moment before the World Cup qualifiers that we can test somebody else, so we choose Sadiq Umar.”
In fairness to Rohr, Onuachu’s lethal club form has not translated to international colours, where he has failed to add to his lone, spectacular introduction to the Super Eagles on his debut in a friendly against Egypt.
Since then, the forward has left fans disappointed, with many even calling for his exclusion after a particularly uninspiring showing against Sierra Leone last November when he replaced an injured Victor Osimhen in a 4-4 debacle.
That he was not featured for the entire 90 minutes of the return fixture a few days later was testament to how poor of a game he had.
But Onuachu returned to Belgium and immediately returned to his old, clinical self. He hit five goals in his next three games for Genk, including a pair of braces. Since that hapless day in November, the 26-year-old has scored 18 goals in 21 games. No other Nigerian has scored more.
Rohr did make it clear that despite the snub, Onuachu was his second choice at the moment behind Napoli’s Victor Osimhen.
The coach added: “In this position we have a number one which is Victor Osimhen. There is no question about it. If we want a number two, we can have Onuachu, we know him. But I want another opportunity to see a new player, which is Sadiq Umar.”
Onuachu accepted his omission from the latest Super Eagles squad in good fate but vowed to continue fighting for a place in the Nigerian national team.
Onuachu has however been handed a Nigeria call-up for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against the Republic of Benin and Lesotho.
The three-time African champions will take on the Squirrels at Stade Charles de Gaulle in Porto Novo on March 27 before facing the Crocodiles three days later at Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos.
The lanky centre-forward has bagged 27 goals across all competitions for the Blue and White, including his strike against Anderlecht in last Sunday’s Belgian Cup tie.
Fans took to social media to blast Super Eagles coach for putting the forward on standby.
Onuachu has now been extended an invitation for the encounters with Simon and other Nigerian stars in France set to miss the encounter due to the country’s COVID-19 protocols.
“Following the uncertainty regarding the availability of players based in France due to COVID-19 laws guiding the country, Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rohr has extended an invitation to KRC Genk striker Paul Onuachu. Henry Onyekuru was earlier called up to replace injured Samuel Kalu,” read a statement from the NFF media channel.
Nantes have already confirmed the club will not be releasing any of their players for international games outside the European territory.
“Like several clubs in France, FC Nantes will not release its selected international players for matches outside the European area during the next international break scheduled for the end of March,” read a statement from the club website.
“In the absence of health guarantees in accordance with the requirements of the French government in force to date, FC Nantes will not be able to release its internationals outside the limits of the European space.
“This decision, based on FIFA circular 1749 of February 5, is justified by the return protocol imposed on travellers who have travelled outside the European Union, who must in particular respect a seven-day isolation.
“The players concerned would also be unable to take part in the match of the 31st day of Ligue 1 scheduled for Sunday, April 4, between FC Nantes and OGC.”
Nigeria lead Group L of the AFCON qualifiers with eight points and victory over Benin or Lesotho will seal their place at the biennial tournament, scheduled for Cameroon in 2022.