Nigeria forward Odion Ighalo retires from international football

Nigeria's coach Gernot Rohr and Odion Ighalo celebrates after receiving a medal for winning the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations third place between Tunisia and Nigeria at the Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo, Egypt, on 17 July 2019. (Photo by Ahmed Awaad/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Nigeria’s forward Odion Ighalo celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) third place play-off football match between Tunisia and Nigeria at the Al Salam stadium in Cairo on July 17, 2019. (Photo credit KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Nigeria forward Odion Ighalo announced his retirement from international football on Saturday after helping the Super Eagles secure third place at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Ighalo finished as the tournament’s top scorer with five goals and also was the leading scorer in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers with seven goals.

Ighalo, 30, said that though the decision was one of the hardest in his life as a footballer, he believed it was the right one.

“I feel honoured to finish as top scorer in Egypt with the help of my teammates and coaching staff. Personally, it is also time for me to give way to the promising young players in the national team set up,” Ighalo said.

The Shanghai Shenhua striker, who made his debut in March 2015, scored 16 goals in 35 games for Nigeria.

The last of his goals was the winning goal in the 3rd/4th place playoff against Tunisia which Nigeria won 1-0. Before that, he scored a penalty in Nigeria’s 2-1 loss to eventual winners Algeria in the semifinals.

Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Amaju Pinnick failed to convince Ighalo to reconsider his decision.

“I respect him a lot, so I listened to him. Then I discussed it with my family and we all decided that now is the right time to leave the national team for those coming up,” Ighalo said.

In 2018, Ighalo said that his family received death threats following his failure to score at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Ighalo said the incident was painful but not enough to force him to quit playing for Nigeria.

Ighalo is the second player from Nigeria’s 2019 AFCON squad to retire from international football. Former Chelsea midfielder and captain John Obi Mikel, 32, also announced his retirement on Thursday following Nigeria’s playoff win against Tunisia.

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