In what will be arguably the biggest day of his life, Super Eagles’ striker, Odion Jude Ighalo will step on to the field as a happy and determined man when Nigeria confronts Croatia in their opening Group D fixture at the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Russia, reports.
Ighalo, who turns 29 today, will be hoping to mark the day with a goal or victory which will definitely guarantee a big party in the team’s camp immediately after the game.
But the Changchun Yatai joint record goalscorer will be facing a daunting task as he wears the somewhat cursed number 9 jersey which has failed to produce fruit since Rashidi Yekini struck Nigeria’s first goal at the FIFA World Cup at USA ’94.
At France 98, Yekini led Nigeria’s attack and failed to produce a goal, with the jersey also won by the likes of Bartholomew Ogbeche in Korea/Japan 2002, Obafemi Martins in South Africa 2010 and Emmanuel Emenike at the last Mundial in Brazil four years ago with all three strikers also not able to replicate the hype given to them to deliver on the big stage.
Since Rashidi Yekini scored Nigeria’s first-ever World Cup goal against Bulgaria in 1994, occupants of the number 9 jersey have failed to find the target for the Super Eagles in 17 consecutive games at the tournament, a drought totaling 1016 minutes of football.
However, the stage might just be set for Ighalo, who could steal the show on the night with a brilliant performance and a goal to mark.
Though his goal statics for the Super Eagles have not been encouraging, the player sure knows how to work under pressure and deliver on the biggest stage just like he did in the qualifying series against Cameroon in Uyo last year.