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7 Oct 2017

Russia 2018: England panic over Nigerian-born stars

Nigeria will seal their place in the Russia 2018 World Cup with victory over Zambia in Uyo on Saturday.
The Super Eagles, who are seeking their sixth appearance in the world’s football showpiece, lead   Russia 2018 qualifying Group B on 10 points from four games   followed by Zambia’s Chipolopolo, who have seven points from the same number of games. African champions Cameroon are third with three points, with Algeria last in the table on one point.

As Nigerian fans eagerly wait for the Eagles to book their place at the World Cup, the development has caused England some discomfort.

Reports on Friday said England had   been gripped by fear they could lose the likes of Tammy Abraham, Sheyi Ojo, Dominic Solanke, Ademola   Lookman, Josh Onomah, who have Nigerian roots, to the Eagles.

Liverpool striker   Solanke, Everton forward Lookman, Liverpool winger Ojo   and Tottenham defender   Onomah helped England win the FIFA Under- 20 World Cup for the first time in South Korea in June.  Ovie Ejaria and Fikayo Tomori, who also have Nigerian ancestry, were part of the squad.  The players are still eligible to play for the Eagles as they have yet to be capped at senior level by England.

England recently lost Chelsea defender Ola Aina to  the Eagles – one year after Arsenal’s rising star Alex Iwobi switched his international allegiance to Nigeria.

The Nigeria Football Federation had made  moves  to get 19-year-old  Ojo, who is on loan at Fulham, 20-year-old   striker Abraham, who is  currently  at Swansea,   19-year-old   Lookman  and  19-year-old   Liverpool midfielder   Ejaria  to commit their international futures to Nigeria, but nothing came out of the efforts.

Although the England U-21 team  players have pledged their international commitments to the country where they were born and raised, England U-21s manager Aidy Boothroyd admits  they  are facing  uncertainty  over the international future of some of England’s best junior players, with Nigeria on the verge of World Cup qualification.

England  on Thursday  beat Slovenia  1-0 at Wembley  to  qualify for the  World Cup.

The Telegraph quoted Boothroyd  as saying on Friday,  “Nigeria are trying to get as many players as they can and you can’t blame them because we’ve got some good players.

“There was talk about Tammy, while Sheyi Ojo is another and they might still be trying (to make him represent Nigeria at senior level), you just don’t know. It’s a hard one because I can’t guarantee they are going to play because the group is so good.”

The 46-year-old former Watford manager added, “But these are lads that have played for England and have an affinity with us and a relationship. There is a pathway and I can always pick the phone up and speak to them.”

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