AFCON 2022: Blow for Nigeria as Osimhen and Dennis drop out

Dennis is not being released by Watford because the Nigerian federation did not request him for the tournament in time, while Osimhen is also out after contracting COVID-19.

Nigeria plays its first Group D game against Egypt in Garoua on January 11 and will also be without defenders Leon Balogun and Abdullahi Shehu. (Representative Image)   -  GETTY IMAGES

Nigeria has been hit by a double blow to its attack for the Africa Cup of Nations finals with key strikers Emmanuel Dennis and Victor Osimhen dropping out of its squad for the tournament in Cameroon.

Defenders Leon Balogun and Abdullahi Shehu have also withdrawn because of injury, the Nigerian Football Federation said as it announced a revised 28-man squad on Friday.

Dennis is not being released by Watford because the Nigerian federation did not request him for the tournament in time.

Watford manager Claudio Ranieri earlier this week revealed Nigeria missed the deadline to inform Watford of its intention to select him, giving the club the power to decide whether to release the 24-year-old striker for international duty.

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While the struggling Premier League club has said nothing since, Dennis was removed from a revised squad list for the finals in Cameroon, which kicks off on January 9.

Osimhen is also out after contracting COVID-19. He suffered facial fractures playing for Napoli in November in a clash of heads with Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar and required titanium plates and screws fixed to his cheekbone and eye socket.

His club said he would be out for three months but the forward returned to training just before Christmas, wearing a protective mask, and travelled to Nigeria last week.

But he has now contracted the novel coronavirus for a second time and gone into isolation in Nigeria, cancelling a trip back to Italy for a further check up on his cheekbone.

The 23-year-old is asymptomatic, according to a statement by his club Napoli.

"Consequently, the local authorities have ordered that Osimhen self-isolate and the check-up will be rescheduled after he has tested negative and his period of isolation ends" said the statement.

ALSO READ | COVID hits favourites ahead of Africa Cup of Nations finals

Nigeria has called up Peter Olayinka from Czech club Slavia Prague and Olympiakos winger Henry Onyekuru to replace the two forwards while Semi Ajayi from Championship club West Bromwich Albion and Tyrone Ebuehi, who plays at Venezia in Serie A, come in as defenders.

It plays its first Group D game against Egypt in Garoua on January 11.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs), John Noble (Enyimba), Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam), Francis Uzoho (Omonia Nicosia)

Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino), Semi Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion), Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor), Jamilu Collins (Paderborn), Tyrone Ebuehi (Venezia), Olisa Ndah (Orlando Pirates), Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes), Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto), William Troost Ekong (Watford)

Midfielders: Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers), Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow), Alex Iwobi (Everton), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), Kelechi Nwakali (Huesca), Frank Onyeka (Brentford)

Forwards: Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin), Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal), Odion Ighalo (Al Shabab), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk), Peter Olayinka (Slavia Prague), Henry Onyekuru (Olympiakos), Moses Simon (Nantes), Sadiq Umar (Almeria). (Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by William Maclean)

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