The 25-year-old has been producing for both club and country, with his prolificacy at Napoli almost always replicated when he’s with the national team.
With the Super Eagles paired against hosts the Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau in Group A of the AFCON, they’ll be heavily relying on Osimhen’s goals to navigate their way into the knockout stage.
The reigning African Player of the Year has been compared to greats like Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and Austin Jay-Jay Okocha, all of whom made their marks in the AFCON. Osimhen said although he feels flattered to be compared to such legends, he is focused on carving out a path for himself and writing his name in the history books.
“It is a huge honour to be compared to some of our legends. It motivates me a lot. But what motivates me more is making my own way, achieving my own goals,” he told Al Jazeera.
Osimhen ready to shoulder responsibility at AFCON 2023
Nigeria will open their AFCON campaign against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday, January 14, as they aim to make a winning start to the tournament. On paper, Peseiro’s side is littered with some fantastic talent playing across Europe, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll gel on the pitch or have the right balance.
The Super Eagles have, however, been ravaged by injuries to key, especially in midfield and the striking department, where Victor Boniface and Umar Sadiq have been ruled out, while Kelechi Iheanacho remains a huge doubt.
The absence of the aforementioned forwards means Osimhen is Nigeria’s surest bet of getting goals at the AFCON, and the player says he’s ready to shoulder the responsibility.
The 25-year-old said he wants to win the AFCON to create his legacy, adding that his critics will be justified to question him if he retires without winning the continental showpiece.
“Like I've said before, if I never win the AFCON for Nigeria, people will question me. And it would be justified: there is a lot of responsibility on me. I know that, and I'm not running away from it,” Osimhen noted.
“I want to win the Afcon with my country and write my own legacy. All the greats in Nigeria have a title to their name and to be mentioned in that space I must win it, too.”
‘We have a strong team’
Osimhen also welcomed talks of Nigeria being among the favourites for the tournament despite the Super Eagles’ shaky form in recent matches.
Jose Peseiro’s side suffered a shocking 2-0 defeat at the hands of Guinea in a pre-AFCON friendly and are heading to Ivory Coast on the back of just one win in their last five games. That, though, has not stopped Nigerian fans from dreaming of a first major trophy since 2013.
Osimhen believes Nigeria boasts a strong side that can rival any team on the continent and has backed his international teammates to bring the A game to the AFCON.
“We have a very strong team, full of players with talent and experience. All over Europe, we have players in all the top teams showing great form. We also get along really well: I’m friends personally with a lot of them. Our spirit is strong,” he added.
Osimhen was the top scorer during the AFCON qualifiers after netting 10 goals for the Super Eagles and will be aiming to replicate his rich vein of form when Nigeria take on Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.