Nigeria forward Victor Osimhen has opened up on why he ceded penalty-taking duty to William Troost-Ekong during the Super Eagles’ victory over the Ivory Coast in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024).
Osimhen won a penalty for his country in the second half after being felled in the box but did not step up to take the resulting spot-kick.
Rather, Nigeria captain Troost-Ekong did the honours by smashing the ball hard down the middle, sealing an important 1-0 victory for Jose Peseiro’s side, who now have four points from two matches.
Many have wondered why Osimhen did not take the penalty, especially with the striker in contention for the top scorers’ gong, but the Napoli star has now revealed that it was the coach’s decision.
According to the 25-year-old, although Troost-Ekong wanted him to take the penalty, he had to respect the coach’s decision, hence asking the defender to proceed.
Osimhen’s penalty record for club and country
Troost-Ekong’s goal against the Ivory Coast means he has now scored in three different AFCON tournaments and for a centre-back, that is a special feat.
It is also not the first time that the 30-year-old has assumed penalty-taking duty from Osimhen, having done the same under Augustine Eguavoen during the second leg of the 2022 World Cup qualifying playoffs against Ghana in Abuja.
Although Osimhen is a lethal goal scorer, his record from the spot isn't great, having missed penalties for both club and country that led to questions marks.
In September, the forward was involved in a row with Napoli after the club’s TikTok account trolled him for missing a penalty against Bologna. Osimhen subsequently deleted all photos and videos related to Napoli from his Instagram account, although an amicable settlement was later reached between player and club.
Speaking to journalists after allowing Troost-Ekong to take Nigeria’s penalty against Ivory Coast, Osimhen said he really doesn’t mind who assumes the role of penalty taker and only wants to see the team win.
“It was the coach. He wanted me to take it but I have to respect it, he’s the captain. For me, I really don’t mind who takes the penalty or who scores for the team. I want the team to win. I want the team to progress so this is the most important thing for me,” he said, as quoted by Soccernetng.
AFCON 2024: Troost-Ekong on penalty duty
Meanwhile, Troost-Ekong has also confirmed that Osimhen indeed asked him to take the penalty, but clarified that the Napoli forward remains Nigeria’s first-choice penalty taker.
The PAOK defender said he felt prepared to take that big moment because he’s been practising penalties in training.
“Victor is our first choice he said he wanted me to take it. Of course, I couldn’t say no. We practice penalties and I took one against Ghana. Maybe it was the moment of the game [but] I was feeling good. I would also have been happy for him to take it but I’m sure he’s going to score many more goals for us,” Troost-Ekong told BBC Africa.
Troost-Ekong—who has captained Nigeria in their two games so far at the AFCON with Ahmed Musa on the bench—has now scored five goals for the Nigeria national team. Osimhen, though, will be hoping to add to his goal tally in the tournament when the Super Eagles take on Guinea-Bissau in their final Group A game on Monday, January 22.
The Napoli star currently has a return of 21 goals in 29 matches for the Super Eagles and is third in his country’s all-time top-scorers list.