• Friday, June 21, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Blow for Finidi as Osimhen ruled out of 2026 World Cup qualifiers

Osimhen-2 (2)

Super Eagles striker and reigning CAF Player of the Year Victor Osimhen has been ruled out of the upcoming FIFA 2026 World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin Republic due to an injury he picked up in the closing stages of the 2023/24 Serie A season.

The Partenopei leading goalscorer took part in the club’s final league game of the season, a 0-0 draw with Lecce, appearing as a second half substitute to replace Jens Cajuste. He had missed the previous league outing, a 2-2 draw with Fiorentina due to muscular fatigue.

Nigeria will face South Africa and Benin in the FIFA 2026 World Cup qualifiers later in June.

Super Eagles coach Finidi George recently named a 23-man squad for the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers and Osimhen was among the top stars invited for the fixtures.

The Super Eagles announced the update on their official X handle on Tuesday, stating that Enugu Rangers’ Kenneth Igboke has been called up to replace the injured Osimhen.

The post read, “Camp update: Africa Player of the Year, Victor Osimhen is injured and out for 4 weeks. Super Eagles’ Coach Finidi George has called up Enugu Rangers’ left back Kenneth Igboke for the WC qualifiers against South Africa and Benin Republic.”

Igboke has been a stalwart in the Rangers’ backline this season, though it is uncertain if he will get playing time in the two games. Bayer Leverkusen star Victor Boniface is expected to lead the line for the Super Eagles in Osimhen’s absence.

There were initial fears that Osimhen might miss the games due to a slight injury sustained at Napoli, but those fears were allayed after he played in the final game of the season against Lecce.

Unfortunately, the Napoli goal poacher did not recover fully to lead Nigeria’s attack against South Africa and Benin Republic in next month’s 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

Nigeria’s Super Eagles will face South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in Uyo, Akwa Ibom, on June 7, followed by an away match against Benin Republic on June 10.