Star striker Osimhen’s mystery injury ruffles Super Eagles plans

Wednesday February 07 2024
Nigeria's forward Victor Osimhen (right) vies for the ball with Cameroon's goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa

Nigeria's forward Victor Osimhen (R) fights for the ball with Cameroon's goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa during their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) 2024 round of 16 match at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on January 27, 2024. PHOTO | AFP


Anxiety has hanged over the Nigerian camp since Tuesday as their star striker Victor Osimhen’s participation in their semi-final against South Africa remains in question.

Osimhen, a vital cog in Nigeria’s attacking machinery, has been battling an “abdominal issue’’ and did not travel with the team to their training camp in Bouake. This fuelled speculation over his availability today.

Adding to the tension, head coach José Peseiro offered little clarity on Osimhen’s situation, stating he would have a better understanding by Wednesday afternoon.

His absence could be a major blow to Nigeria, considering his contributions of a goal and his energetic high-pressing style.

Read: Nigeria warns citizens ahead of SA Afcon clash

However, Peseiro had a talented pool of attackers, including Kelechi Iheanacho, Paul Onuachu and Terem Moffi, who could fill any void left by Osimhen.


“I cannot answer right because it’s a problem with health, and I think tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon I can know better if he can play or not,” said José Peseiro.

The Nigeria Football Association released a statement just before the Super Eagles' Monday’s departure citing an abdominal issue requiring Osimhen to remain in Abidjan, Ivory Coast for medical evaluation.

“Members of the team travelled from Abidjan to Bouake today via a 10 pm Air Cote D’Ivoire flight,” read the statement. 

Abdominal discomfort

“Osimhen did not however make the trip as a result of abdominal discomfort.

“Team medics confirmed that the Napoli striker has been placed under close watch with a medical team member staying in Abidjan with him. 

Read: Nigeria's Osimhen named African player of the year

The exact nature and cause of the discomfort remains unclear, but the striker appeared somewhat fatigued when substituted late in the quarter-final win over Angola.

Meanwhile, South Africa have confirmed talented 20-year-old Thapelo Maseko has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament. The speedy forward who plays for Mamelodi Sundowns, picked up a muscle injury late in the game against Cape Verde.

“A little update about the injured player Thapelo Maseko,” said Bafana coach Hugo Broos.

“So, he has muscle injury grade 3. He will still stay with us since the tournament is almost finished. He will not go to South Africa.”

“And we don’t replace him. There are problems with the visa and the flights. If we should replace him, the player will arrive on Thursday or, in the worst case, maybe Friday. So, we don’t want to do that, and we have the opportunity to solve the problem in the group. For that, Thapelo will not be replaced.”