Nigeria midfielder Alex Iwobi says the attitude shown by team-mate Victor Osimhen is being used as a source of motivation at the Africa Cup of Nations.
The Super Eagles were held to a 1-1 draw by Equatorial Guinea in their group stage opener, a result which adds extra importance to tomorrow’s match against host nation Ivory Coast.
Osimhen, 25, scored Nigeria’s goal — his 21st in 29 international appearances — and Iwobi says the rest of the squad can take inspiration from the Napoli marksman’s hunger.
The Fulham ace told LiveScore: “Everyone has the opinion that he’s a great striker and the reason why he’s such a great striker is because he’s someone that is hungry.
“I’ve seen him grow from a youngster. Without that hunger and passion for football, he wouldn’t be where he is now.
“It’s something we also use as inspiration. When we see our striker pressing and hungry to get goals, it gives us that motivation to do the same and go win the ball to create chances.
Osimhen’s importance to Nigeria’s AFCON hopes was further increased by Victor Boniface’s withdrawal from the squad. The 23-year-old suffered a serious groin injury in training which required surgery.
The Bayer Leverkusen star has scored 10 goals and assisted seven more in the Bundesliga this term — and Super Eagles centre-back Calvin Bassey recognises his absence is a significant blow.
He said: “A big loss. Everyone could see his quality from what he’s been doing in the Bundesliga. We wish him well.
“Of course, it wasn’t nice for us regardless of who it was. You don’t want to see anyone get injured and have to undergo surgery.”
Iwobi added: “When it happened, it was so sad. We were doing a finishing drill and he hurt his groin.
“The way he went down was so sad because someone of his quality is something we needed.
“But at the same time, it’s Nigeria. If one person goes down there’s another one coming in. So we can’t dwell on it.
“He [Boniface] wished us well. Hopefully we can do our best for him.”
Nigeria are among the favourites to win this year’s AFCON and add to their previous three triumphs in 1980, 1994 and 2013.
Iwobi is confident of lifting the trophy at the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpe on February 11, calling on his team-mates to simply prove their quality.
The 27-year-old said: “Of course I believe in us [to win the trophy]. Because I feel we have one of the best teams, player for player, in Africa.
“We just have to prove it.”
Speaking positively about the Super Eagles’ chances, Fulham team-mate Bassey added: “All of us are very grounded.
“We know we’re going to need to work hard, be more prepared than the opposition regardless of the quality we have.”
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