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Saka, Musiala, Ugbo: Meet Nigerian-born footballers featuring at World Cup

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To many football-loving Nigerians, the absence of the Super Eagles in Qatar 2022 remains a hard-to-heal wound.

The Ghanaian national team pushed the bitter pill down the throat of the Super Eagles at the National Stadium in Abuja when it eliminated the Nigerian team after a goaless draw.

The loss triggered a devastating swirl of emotions which snowballed into the appalling vandalisation of facilities at the newly refurbished Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja.

Nigerians will watch the World Cup without their beloved green and white army for the second time in 28 years. Only in 2006 did the country fail to qualify for the Mundial.

With the Eagles absent from the tournament, Nigerian football fans can have their patriotism hooked and cheer a handful of footballers of Nigerian descent who are representing other countries in Qatar.

 

Bukayo Saka (England)

The 21-year-old is unarguably the most popular name of Nigerian descent heading to the World Cup. The Arsenal winger has been hailed as one of the most exciting young talents in the world since he broke through the Gunners youth team in 2018.

Born to Nigerian parents who immigrated to England, Saka was eligible for the Super Eagles but he opted for the Three Lions in 2020.

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Speaking on the decision, the 2022 Golden Boy nominee said although he is proud of his Nigerian roots, he sees more progress with the English national team.

“I feel like I’m really, really proud of my Nigerian heritage,” Saka said.

“I always still watch Nigeria’s games where I can and I wish them all the best and support them all the way.

 

“But I’ve seen the process of how England are transforming and I think in the future, they’re going to do great stuff. I feel like it was right for me to choose England.”

He has since made 22 appearances for Gareth Southgate’s side, scoring four goals.

Saka recently sponsored surgeries for 120 kids from poor homes in Kano, Nigeria.

 

Jamal Musiala (Germany)

At just 19, Musiala has been touted as a fully forged world-class midfielder. His repertoire of skills communicates the diverse and sophisticated football education he had.

Born in Stuttgart, Germany, to a father of Nigerian origin and a German mother, Musiala was enrolled in Chelsea academy after his parents moved to England in 2011.

The teenager represented England at the youth level until Bayern Munich came calling, and he returned to Germany.

Eligible to represent all three of Nigeria, England and Germany, Musiala opted for his mother’s country.

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In an interview earlier this year, Gernot Rohr, former Super Eagles coach, said he almost got the Bayern midfielder to switch allegiance to Nigeria when he was 17, but it fell through.

Musiala made his debut for the Die Mannschaft in March 2021.

 

Karim Adeyemi (Germany)

Adeyemi is living his father’s dream of becoming a professional footballer. Abbey Adeyemi left Nigeria for Germany in search of greener pastures for his lofty football dreams. But upon his arrival, he was too old for the shortening age range of professional football and settled for a normal life.

On came Karim through a Romanian mother, and his dream was rekindled vicariously.

Karim is a 20-year-old striker deemed talented enough by Borussia Dortmund as the replacement for Erling Haaland.

He pledged allegiance to Germany in 2021 and scored on his debut.

 

Manuel Akanji (Switzerland)

The Manchester City defender was born in Neftenbach, Switzerland, to a Nigerian father and a Swiss mother.

He comes from an athletic family. His siblings, Michelle and Sarah, are both professional athletes.

Akanji has strong ties with his Nigerian origin but chose to represent Switzerland instead.

He has represented the Rossocrociati 42 times across several major tournaments.

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Noah Okafor (Switzerland)

Like Akanji, Okafor has a Nigerian father and a Swiss mother.

The 22-year-old forward represented Switzerland at various youth levels before making his senior debut in 2019.

Okafor plays for Austria’s RB Salzburg where he has won three league titles and as many cup trophies.

 

Samuel Adekugbe (Canada)

Adekugbe was born in England to parents of Nigerian descent. He had a spell with Manchester United Grassroots Program before his family moved to Canada when he was 10.

He rose through the ranks of Vancouver Whitecaps FC and made his debut for the Canadian national team in 2015.

His playing career saw him return to England, followed by spells in Sweden and Norway.

The 27-year-old currently plays for Hatayspor in Turkey Lig 1.

Ike Ugbo (IKe Ugbo)

Ugbo was also born in England to parents of Nigerian origin. He is a product of the prestigious Chelsea academy where he twice won UEFA Youth League titles.

Although his parents had moved to Canada when he was five, the striker opted to represent England at the youth level.

He, however, switched allegiance to Canada in 2021. The Troye FC striker has played eight times for the Reds since then.

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Messi to the rescue: Hope alive for Argentina after beating Mexico

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Stunning goals from Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez saw Argentina defeat Mexico and keep their World Cup hopes alive.

Lionel Scaloni’s side would have been eliminated from the competition had they lost this clash following their shock opening day defeat to Saudi Arabia, while Mexico themselves are now on the brink of an exit having been held to a scoreless draw by Poland in their opening game.

It was a first half which was wonderfully scrappy but devoid of any flair, creativity, rhythm or generally quality. It was dominated by sloppy passes, late challenges and nerves. The opening half produced no shots on target and 16 fouls.

Argentina improved after the break and won the game with the encounter’s only true moment of quality; Messi’s strike from outside the area beating Guillermo Ochoa and finding the corner of the net.

Scaloni’s side wrapped up the vital victory late on with a stunning strike from substitute Fernandez. Mirror Football analyses the five main talking points from an emotional clash at the Lusail Stadium.

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Maradona pulled his nation to a sensational World Cup triumph in 1986, with his legacy of propelling Napoli to their only ever two league titles in their history also ensuring that his level of achievement is unlikely to be surpassed.

This will be Messi’s last World Cup – he will be a 39-year-old by the time the 2026 edition comes around – and football’s most prized asset has continued to allude him. Nobody can doubt the star’s all-time status among the greats, yet glory on this stage would have been the ultimate crown in a stunning career. His dream lives on after his part in this clash.

Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni made wholesale changes to his starting line-up from Argentina’s shock opening day loss against Saudi Arabia. Only one of those changes was enforced – as Lisandro Martinez replaced Cristian Romero in the heart of defence.

Scaloni changed both his full-backs with Sevilla pair Gonzalo Montiel and Marcos Acuna coming in, while Guido Rodriguez replaced Leandro Paredes at the base of the midfield while Brighton ’s Alexis MacAllister came in for Papu Gomez.

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World Cup: Saudi Crown Prince promises players Rolls Royce for beating Argentina

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The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, has promised each player in the national team a Rolls Royce Phantom for their win against Argentina in their World Cup opener in Qatar.

A resilient Saudi Arabian side on Tuesday defeated the Copa America winners 2-1 with all odds against them.

It is not the first time that a Rolls Royce would be awarded to a Saudi Arabian player. In the 1994 tournament Saeed Al-Owairan receiving one of the luxury cars after scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 victory against Belgium.

In 2022 however, despite having arguably the best player in the world on their team, seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi, a struggling Argentina could not get any point out of the match although they were the dominant team for most of the game.

Messi’s penalty in the first 10 minutes of the game saw the middle eastern team go into half time with a bleak finish in sight, however, Saudi Arabia turned the game around immediately after the second half resumed with Saleh Alshehri’s goal, 48′, leveling up with Argentina and Saleh Aldawsari’s 53rd minute winning goal.

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A national holiday had already been announced the day after the win by Saudi King, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. All employees in public and private sectors as well as students in all phases of education were given the day off to celebrate the stunning victory.

Saudi Arabia are currently top of Group C, being the only team in the group to have won so far in the tournament with Mexico and Poland playing out goalless draws, leaving two-time winners Argentina bottom of the group.

 

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Meet Bukayo Saka’s Nigerian girlfriend Tolami Benson

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Arsenal and Nigerian-born Bukayo Saka has no doubt established himself as one of England’s brightest prospects in recent years, and is likely to be key to Gareth Southgate’s World Cup plans.

The Arsenal star appears to have some further support off the pitch too, dating long-term partner Tolami Benson who will be cheering him on at the World Cup.

Tolami Benson is 22-years of age, making her one year older than Bukayo Saka.

Benson, who has 6,000 Instagram followers, is regularly spotted on social media relaxing on holiday, sometimes with the Arsenal ace by her side.

She is also quite the Gunners fan, posting pictures of herself in the shirt as well as following the club on Instagram.

How long have they been dating?

The pair are thought to have started dating in late 2020 but have kept their relationship secret until recently.

They do not share pictures of them together, and don’t even follow each other on social media.

READ  Meet Bukayo Saka’s Nigerian girlfriend Tolami Benson

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