Super Eagles: Uncertainty over Chukwueze’s fitness for World Cup qualifiers

With the Super Eagles squad due to assemble in Uyo this weekend, there is some uncertainty regarding the availability and fitness of AC Milan winger Samuel Chukwueze.

As the Super Eagles prepare for June’s crucial FIFA World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin, Chukwueze's condition remains a significant concern.

Samuel Chukwueze
Photo by Icon Sport

The Super Eagles will commence their residential camp on Saturday, gearing up for the pivotal fixtures against South Africa and Benin

Chukwueze was named among 22 other players in Finidi George's first squad announcement since taking over the coaching role in April.

Despite being injured at the time of the squad announcement, some sources suggested that he might recover in time for the games. However, Chukwueze has not seen action on the pitch recently.

His last appearance for Milan was in their 5-1 victory over Cagliari on May 11.

Unfortunately, he missed the end of the season due to a thigh injury. His absence from Milan’s end-of-season tour in Australia has only fueled the uncertainty regarding his availability for the national team.

Osimhen Out, Chukwueze's status unclear

Two days ago, the Nigeria Football Federation announced that Victor Osimhen had withdrawn from the fixtures against Bafana Bafana and the Squirrels of Benin due to injury.

However, there has been no update on Chukwueze's situation.

The former Villarreal forward was a key part of Nigeria’s campaign at the Africa Cup of Nations in January, where the Super Eagles were narrowly defeated 2-1 in the final by hosts Ivory Coast.

Chukwueze featured in four out of the seven games Nigeria played in the tournament.

Since then, Chukwueze has not played for Nigeria. He was not included in the squad for the Super Eagles' tour of Morocco during the last international window, where they faced Ghana and Mali.

Samuel Chukwueze
Photo by Icon Sport

The 25-year-old also missed Nigeria’s first two FIFA World Cup qualifying games against Lesotho and Zimbabwe due to injury.

Chukwueze played 33 games across all competitions for Milan this season, scoring three goals and providing three assists.

Super Eagles coach Finidi George would undoubtedly prefer to have Chukwueze in the team, especially with Osimhen’s withdrawal. Chukwueze’s presence would add an attacking threat to the squad, which has now seen Kenneth Igboke, a defender from Nigeria Premier League side Rangers International, replace Osimhen.

It remains to be seen whether Chukwueze will report to camp and if he is fit enough for the crucial fixtures against South Africa and Benin.

The Super Eagles are currently third in Group C of the qualifiers and need to perform at their best to keep their hopes alive for a spot in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Rwanda surprisingly leads the group with four points, followed by South Africa with three points. Nigeria is third, while Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Benin round out the group standings.

Nigeria's precarious qualification situation

Nigeria drew 1-1 with Lesotho in their first game of the series at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, coming from behind to earn a point.

In the second game against Zimbabwe, the Super Eagles found themselves in a similar situation.

After conceding a goal to Walter Musona’s free kick, Nigeria managed to salvage a point thanks to Kelechi Iheanacho’s stunning equalizer.

In this qualification window, the Super Eagles will face Bafana Bafana on June 7 in Uyo before traveling to Abidjan to take on Benin three days later.

Osimhen and Chukwueze
Photo by Icon Sport

These fixtures are crucial for Nigeria’s World Cup aspirations, and the fitness of key players like Chukwueze could significantly impact their performance.

The Super Eagles know there is no room for errors in this window if they harbor any hopes of making it to the World Cup because of the bad start they had in the last window.

Nigeria failed to qualify for the last FIFA World Cup in Qatar after losing on aggregate to Ghana in the final qualification round.

Super Eagles: Uncertainty over Chukwueze’s fitness for World Cup qualifiers
Andrew Randa

Andrew Randa is a veteran Nigerian sports journalist with over 20 years of experience covering the beautiful game across Africa. Andrew served as a Media Officer for Nigeria's U-20 Men's National Team for three years, offering a unique perspective on the future stars of Nigerian football.

Beyond reporting, Andrew is a pioneer in sports graphics creation within Nigeria. His expertise extends to sports kit design, making him a true multi-faceted talent in the African sports landscape.

Andrew's experience is vast, with collaborations encompassing prestigious names like Kickoff, SuperSport, the NFF (Nigeria Football Federation), and the NPFL (Nigeria Professional Football League)