Stories By JOE APU
DEVASTATED by the Super Eagles failure to reach the finals of the AFCON 2017 billed for Gabon, Lazio of Italy central midfielder Ogenyi Onazi has vowed that the players will do everything in their power to earn qualification for the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Speaking in Lagos during a chance meeting, Onazi said that he and his colleagues feel bad over the inability of the Super Eagles make the AFCON 2017. He stressed that the situation has left the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF in bad light.
“The blame of not qualifying is ours as a team and given the care and comfort we’ve enjoyed under the NFF President Pinnick Amaju, his board does not deserve the bashing of the public.
“I will tell you that this board has been fantastic in terms of welfare. We let them down in the AFCON qualification but that won’t happen again. We’ve resolved to give our all to the NFF board to ensure that Russia 2018 does not elude Nigeria. As players we owe this board that duty of qualification for the World Cup,” the player stated.
He called on Nigerians to put aside the disappointment of AFCON and join them in prayers as they campaign for a 2018 World Cup ticket in Russia.
Onazi joined Lazio in 2011, alongside his teammate, Sani Emmanuel. The pair trialled in England, Greece and Italy following appearances at the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup, in which Nigeria reached the final on home soil, losing to Switzerland.
As a 16-year-old, Onazi represented his country at the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup, where Nigeria finished runners-up. However, he was overlooked for selection at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup two years later, despite participating in the training camps in Portugal and Panama.
He made his debut for the senior Nigeria national team in an African Cup of Nations qualification match against Liberia. His first goal came in his second international match, a 3–1 friendly win over Venezuela in Florida.
Onazi was called up to Nigeria’s 23-man squad for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. He came on as a substitute in Nigeria’s first match of the tournament against Burkina Faso, whom they would eventually face again in the final, before going to on to play every minute of all Nigeria’s games in the knockout phase, including the final.