Super Eagles forward Paul Onuachu says the team’s mission at the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is to win the trophy after the Nigerian side made it to the competition on Saturday.
The Genk star extended his sizzling form for the Jupiler League side to the national team, scoring a late winner against the Benin Republic to condemn Nigeria’s neighbors to their first-ever defeat at home in eight years.
“We will just have to go there and take the gold,” he told NFF TV after the game at the Stade Charles de Gaulle in Port Novo.
The lanky striker who is the leading scorer in the Belgian elite league with 25 goals in 30 games was also full of praise for Nigerian fans.
“I’m just going to say, thanks to the nation for the push because they have really pushed me to show what I have to show in the national team,” the 26-year-old added.
“And now I am happy for the team and for the country. It is a lot of confidence for a striker to score, and I’m very happy.”
Although the three-time African champions had already booked their place in the competition billed for Cameroon before the match, Onuachu’s 93rd-minute winner guaranteed Gernot Rohr’s men a top-of-the-table finish in Group L of the qualifying series.
A fourth consecutive goalless draw in the section seemed on the cards until giant substitute Onuachu reacted quickest when goalkeeper Saturnin Allagbe blocked a Victor Osimhen shot in Porto-Novo.
A combination of the woodwork, which foiled Osimhen, wild shooting and several superb saves by Allagbe had kept the match at Stade Charles de Gaulle goalless for 92 minutes.
Nigeria have 11 points, Benin seven, Sierra Leone four and Lesotho three going into the final round of qualifiers Tuesday.
While three-time African champions Nigeria host Lesotho in Lagos with only pride at stake, Cup of Nations qualification will be on the line when Sierra Leone confront Benin in Freetown.