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Napoli’s Osimhen named in Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers squad

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Soccer Football – Europa League – Round of 32 First Leg – Granada v Napoli – Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes, Granada, Spain – February 18, 2021 Napoli’s Victor Osimhen REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Nigeria has called up Napoli striker Victor Osimhen for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Benin and Lesotho after a difficult time in Italy, officials said Tuesday.

Osimhen had been sidelined for more than three months with a shoulder injury and was forced to apologise after images of him partying without wearing a mask were shared on social media, since his club-record transfer to Italy from French club Lille in September.

He was then hospitalised last month after a nasty fall in a defeat against Atalanta in which he hit his head, but scored on his reason this weekend in a 3-1 win over Bologna.

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He has netted four goals in the qualifiers so far.

Nigeria visits Benin on March 27 before they host Lesotho on Lagos three days later to conclude the qualifying series for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, which will be staged next year in Cameroon.

The Eagles lead their qualifying group with eight points, closely followed by Benin, who have seven points.

Sierra Leone has three points with only the top two teams advancing to the tournament proper.

Also called up to the 24-man squad are uncapped Sadiq Umar from Spanish second-tier club Almeria and Enyimba goalkeeper John Noble.

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Umar has been on blistering form for Almeria, scored 14 goals as his club look set to return to the Spanish top flight.

Noble was the hero when Enyimba edged past fellow Nigerian club Rivers United on penalties to qualify for the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup.

He is the only player from the domestic league in the main squad and has been listed alongside Sparta Rotterdam ‘keeper Maduka Okoye and Francis Uzoho, who was the country’s No. 1 at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Captain Ahmed Musa was a surprise inclusion as he has been a free agent since October and coach Gernot Rohr has often maintained he will not consider players without a club.

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