Former FC Porto of Portugal youth team player, Philip Chidi Onyemah has reminded Nigerian soccer fans that ex-Super Eagles’ winger, Emmanuel Amuneke should be credited for discovering Lille Metropole of France striker, Victor Osimhen, megasportsarena.com reports.
Speaking in the wake of the youngster’s goals and assists that helped the Eagles beat Lesotho in Sunday’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, Onyemah, who is now a players’ representative, after hanging his boots last year, opined that Osimhen got the best tips, tactics, grooming and foundation for success while playing under Amuneke in the Golden Eaglets’ squad that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup at Chile 2015.
Onyemah, who also played for Fornos de Algodres, Rio Ave and Farmalicao of Portugal during his heyday, was reeling lyrical following the Eagles’ away win, with two assists and a brace from Osimhen, following two earlier goals by Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze, as the Nigerian squad stormed from a goal down to carry the day in Maseru, despite conceding a late own goal by Chidozie Awaziem.
The Eagles, who also conceded a second minute goal to Benin Republic in Uyo on Wednesday, before rallying to win 2-1 on Day 1 of the qualifying series, fell behind after 11 minutes when Nkoto Masoabi rose highest between two defenders to nod powerfully beyond Daniel Akpeyi after The Crocodiles broke on a counter attack.
This was only a minute after Osimhen had rattled goalkeeper Moerane Sekhoane with a stinging shot from outside the area.
In the 17th minute, Eagles’ stand-in captain, William Troost-Ekong’s flying free kick from 24 yards was parried by Sekhoane, and nine minutes later, Iwobi brought Nigeria level following hard work by Osimhen.
The Chile 2015 U-17 World Cup winner saw his pull-out intercepted by a defender, chased the defender, retrieved the ball neatly and passed to Iwobi to drive into the net at the far post.
Five minutes later, he again rattled The Crocodiles’ goaltender, but in the 36th minute there was to be no stopping Chukwueze rose between two taller defenders to nod home a well-weighted pass from Osimhen for the Eagles’ goal second of the evening.
Osimhen still had time for two attempts before half time and, in the second half, the youngster clipped the crossbar and saw another shot parried to safety, then the gangling forward slid full length to score Nigeria’s third from a cross by defender Ola Aina in the 74th minute.
Osimhen again worked hard to create a glorious chance for substitute Ahmed Musa in the 80th minute, but the captain inexplicably missed from inside the box.
Fittingly, the Lille of France forward would score a second goal on the evening, after latching onto a brilliant pass by substitute Ramon Azeez to poke beyond Sekhoane in the 84th minute to virtually assure of the maximum points.
However, Leganes of Spain defender, Awaziem enabled a respectable scoreline for the home team when he diverted a pull-out into his own net with Akpeyi wrong-footed and with only two minutes left in regulation time.
With six points and six goals, the Eagles have started this race well and strong, but while everyone is celebrating Osimhen, Onyemah is quick to state that additional accolades should go out to the man that horned the kid’s raw talent into perfection.
The ex-striker, who was part of the bedrock of the 2001 Eaglets’ squad that eventually went on to a second round finish at the Cadet Mundial in Trinidad & Tobago, rated Amuneke high as one of Nigeria’s best youth developers of the moment.
He recounted how he was also groomed in Amuneke’s now defunct Lagos-based pet club, Soccer Warriors of Orile-Iganmu, and stressed that the 1994 African Footballer of the year should also be remembered for the role he played as Manu Garba’s assistant in the Eaglets’ squad that won the World Cup at UAE 2013, before winning it back-to-back as head coach.
Onyemah exhorted: “I think Amuneke deserves more accolades than what he is currently getting. I cannot forget the role he played actively in the technical crew that won the U17 World Cup in 2013, then won the next edition as head coach, with Victor Osimhen as the top scorer.”