Following the world cup in Russia this summer, the Changchun Yatai forward has scored six goals in three appearances with the national team justifying Gernot Rohr’s trust in him.
After a poor outing at the world cup where he failed to find the back of the net and missed clear-cut chances, the Super Eagles striker found himself in the bad books of Nigeria’s ever zealous football fans, most of whom took their disappointment in the former Watford man especially to Social media.
Ighalo’s six goals in three games including a hattrick in the 4-0 drubbing of Libya at the Godswill Akpabio stadium on Saturday now has the striker in the good books of Nigerians after bringing the national team close to African Cup of Nations qualification.
Odion Ighalo has now revealed that he was on the verge of retiring from Nigeria duty following abuses and death threats he and his family received after his disastrous showing at the World Cup.
The 29-year old forward will be remembered for squandering clear-cut opportunities in the match against Argentina before a Marcos Rojo late winner snatched the chances of the Super Eagles advancing to the knockout stages.
Ighalo’s showing in that match earned him a lot of critics who felt his time at the national team was over and some took it a bit far hurling abuses and death threats on the player and his family.
While the player understood the desire of the fans to see him score, he failed to see any reason why the safety of himself or his family should be threatened prompting the striker to consider calling time on his international career.
“I know the fans want me to score goals. I understand them,” Ighalo told KweseESPN.
“They said a lot of things. To my innocent kids, to my wife, even to the extent they threatened my life and the life of my family.
“I felt very bad [when they went after my family]. I had to talk to my wife because she could not take it. Some words they said about my kids, about me. Some words they said to her, threatening and all that. That is beyond football.
“You know women and how they react when you talk about their children. But I never said a word to nobody and I never replied anybody.”
“My wife said ‘you don’t have to go there [to Nigeria] any more’ and it was because of all what they said to her and to our family.”
The striker’s bad patch in front of goal seems to be behind him already as he has since banished the ghosts of the 2018 world cup scoring goals for fun in the Chinese Super League where he sits second in the goal-scoring chart with 20 goals from 25 games.
A brace in last night’s win against Libya helped to propel the Super Eagles to the top of Group E in the Nations cup qualifier with nine points from four games with the last goal coming from good footwork from the China-based forward.
Ighalo proceeded to express his gratitude to coach Gernot Rohr who he credits for his return to form with the national team.
“I want to thank Rohr because after the World Cup and all those things happened, he called me before the Seychelles game [in September] and I told him I was contemplating stopping because it is not easy,” he continued.
“But the coach had belief in me. He said ‘I know you are a good goalscorer and I know you can do it. Come and show them that you can score.’
“If a coach believes in me, then I will come. I told him ‘coach, if I am in your plans hundred percent then I will honour the invitation any time you call me.’
“He said ‘yes, you you are in my plans for the games’. Then he said ‘don’t be under pressure, just go do your thing, I know you can do it.’
“That gave me the confidence which I believed that I needed. I want to thank him for defending me, and giving me the words like a father, encouraging me, talking to me. He gave me more belief and I thank God for repaying him with these goals.”
Ighalo went on to praise the team’s performance in the away win against the Mediterranean Knights who came back from a two-goal deficit before seeing a late goal from Ighalo undo all their hard work.
“The team really worked hard, it is a good team performance and I am happy to score five goals in two games but it is an all-round performance and I am happy with the team performance.
“We are 99 per cent sealed the ticket to the Cup of Nations.” he added.