By Kunle Adedoyin
Odion Ighalo, Super Eagles main striker, has emerged as top scorer at the just concluded 2019 Africa Cup of Nations just as he confirmed his retirement from international football.
The China-based striker, made his international debut for the Super Eagles, on March 26 2015, under the then newly appointed Nigeria interim coach Daniel Amokachi in the 0–1 friendly home loss to Uganda.
Ighalo represented Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup which was his first and then the 2019 AFCON which was also first with the Super Eagles.
The made an official pronouncement of his intention late Friday night after the 2019 AFCON in an emotional post on his official page.
He said the decision, which was one of his hardest career decisions was from his desire to give a chance to the upcoming players and also to concentrate fully on his club career.
Ighalo, with five goals, finished ahead of Riyad Mahrez of Algeria and Sadio Mane of Senegal, who both finished on three goals, to emerged the winner of AFCON 2019 golden boot.
The Nigerian was also included in the team of the tournament (BEST XI).
Only players from four out of the 24 teams that took part in AFCON 2019 made it to the BEST XI.
Senegal had the most representation with five of their players making the cut. Algeria got four while Nigeria and Tunisia had a player each in the crack squad which has Algeria tactician, Djamel Belmadi, as the coach.
Besides winning the trophy for the second time in their history, champions Algeria also dominated in the individual awards category as the Total Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2019 reached its climax.
Midfielder Ismael Bennacer was adjudged the Total Man of the Competition, the prize for the most valuable player of the tournament.
The 21-year old had a big say as ‘Les Fennecs’ cruised to the title, their first since 1990.
Goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi won a double on the final day. He was decorated as the continent’s best goalkeeper, the award for the best shot-stopper of the competition. He also picked up the Total Man of the Match award of the final match.
Senegal took consolation in midfielder Krepin Diatta, who was named Best Young Player of the tournament. The team also won the Fair Play award.
Below are the awards:
Total Man of the Competition: Ismael Bennacer (Algeria)
Continental best goalkeeper: Rais M’Bolhi (Algeria)
Top scorer: Odion Jude Ighalo (Nigeria) – 5 goals
Best Young Player: Krepin Diatta (Senegal)
Fair Play: Senegal
- Goalkeeper: Rais M’Bolhi (Algeria)
- Defenders: Lamine Gassama (Senegal), Yassine Meriah (Tunisia), Youssouf Sabaly (Senegal), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal),
- Midfielders: Adlene Guediora (Algeria), Idrissa Gana Gueye (Senegal), Ismael Bennacer (Algeria)
- Forwards: Riyad Mahrez (Algeria), Sadio Mane (Senegal), Odion Jude Ighalo (Nigeria)
- Coach: Djamel Belmadi (Algeria)
Here is the full statement from Ighalo:
“This is one of the most difficult career decisions I have had to take. It’s been an amazing 5 years journey, but after due consultation and extensive discussion with my family, I have decided it’s time for me to retire from the National team.
“It’s has been an eventful and most memorable opportunity to serve my country with pride, passion and to contribute my quota to the development of our football, the memories would stay with me for a long time and I’m immensely grateful. It is now time to concentrate on Club football and give the younger players a chance to learn and grow.
“I would love to thank the NFF, coach Gernot Rohr for believing in me against all odds, to my teammates for their professionalism and team spirit without you guys I wouldn’t have achieved so much with this team.
“To NIGERIAN football fans all over the world, I SAY THANK YOU, you were always there to cheer us on and our 12th players every time we step into the pitch. I will be watching and cheering the SUPER EAGLES from this side. THANK YOU…..signing OUT ”