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NATIONS CUP QUALIFIER: EKPO REPLACES INJURED ODEMWINGIE

By NBF News
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Columbus Crew's midfielder, Emmanuel Ekpo, will replace Osaze Odemwingie in the Nigeria squad after the forward withdrew, owing to a recurrent ankle injury. However, Ekpo will only join the squad in Bangladesh where the Super Eagles face Argentina in a friendly match.

Nigeria's Coach, Samson Siasia, called up 25 players to prosecute the two games in September, the first being a 2012 African Nations Cup qualifier against Madagascar. He will, however, travel to Antananarivo with 24 players after Odemwingie's withdrawal.

“We were all sad to hear about Osaze's injury, and we wish him the very best in his recovery because he is a very important player for us,” Siasia said. “But we named a big squad, so that we would be ready in the event of injuries.

“So, we are not going to call up any other player for the Madagascar match. But Emmanuel Ekpo will fly straight to Bangladesh to meet us for the Argentina game.

“Hopefully, we can avoid further injuries as we prepare for the two games.” The Super Eagles play Madagascar on September 4, then head straight from the stadium to the airport to Bangladesh where they will engage Argentina two days later. Meanwhile, Siasia insists that victory over Madagascar remains the priority as Nigeria prepares for two live-wire games in September.

The Super Eagles play their 2012 African Nations Cup qualifier in Antananarivo on September 4 and play Argentina two days later in a rematch with pride at stake. Argentina, complete with a new coach, has named a strong squad, including Lionel Messi, acknowledged as the best player in the world, but Siasia says his thoughts are first and foremost on Madagascar.

“We can't be thinking of Argentina at this time,” Siasia said. “Our priority right now is Madagascar. If we fail to beat Madagascar, it won't matter if we thrash Argentina, nobody will care. “In any case, if we don't beat Madagascar, it will be hard to motivate the boys for Argentina.

“So, there is only one game that is important to us right now, and that is the one in Antananarivo.”