Paul Onuachu

Paul Onuachu was the unfancied hero as Nigeria consolidated their spot above Benin in group L of the 2022 African Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Nigeria kicked off their penultimate game of the campaign already assured of a spot in Cameroon with two games to spare after Lesotho and Sierra Leone played out a stalemate. 

The Squirrels of Benin held the Super Eagles for long periods as they also needed a point to secure qualification.

Onuachu replaced Kelechi Iheanacho at the Charles de Gaulle stadium in the 70th minute to clinch victory for the three-time African champions and spark jubilant scenes amongst the away contingent.

Betway Nigeria

After strike-partner Victor Osimhen’s shot was saved by goalkeeper Saturnin Allagbe, the forward followed up on the rebound to break the deadlock in the 93rd minute.

The feat ended an eight-year unbeaten home streak for Benin since their world cup qualifying loss to Algeria in June 2013.

Plan B goes to work

Onuachu’s second goal in a Super Eagles shirt was worth its weight in gold for a man in supreme form at the moment.

The 26-year-old now holds a unique record with his late late goal at the death, exactly two years and a day after a debut goal only 10 seconds in became the fastest-ever scored for Nigeria, in a friendly against Egypt.

Speaking following his latest heroics, Onuachu told the NFF TV : “I’m just going to say, thanks to the nation for the push because they have really pushed me to show what I have to show in the national team. And now I am happy for the team and for the country. It is a lot of confidence for a striker to score, and I’m very happy.”

Onuachu further revealed his and the team’s targets for the continental showpiece in January.

“We will just have to go there and take the gold,” he said.

The top scorer in the Belgian league this season with 25 goals after 30 games, Onuachu is the highest-scoring Nigerian in Europe with 27 goals in all competitions this season and looks to finally transfer his clinical club form to the Super Eagles.

Onuachu would have been particularly delighted with his decisive contribution off the bench and now gives Gernot Rohr a considerable plan B going into AFCON.

Asked about how he felt after Onuachu finally scored a goal for him, the Super Eagles Head Coach replied: “Point of correction, Onuachu did not score for me but rather for himself and for Nigeria.

“I also believe that this goal will help his confidence whenever he is playing for the country.”

Although the experiment of Osimhen and Iheanacho in a front two did not produce the goods after some promise going into the Benin game. Nigerian fans would be excited to see their prolific second-choice finally delivering for the team.

The Genk man would be hoping for more opportunities to impress in Nigeria’s final group game against Lesotho in Lagos on Tuesday 30 March.


Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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