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Blow for Nigeria as Napoli's Osimhen and Dennis drop out of Cup of Nations

FOOTBALL By Reuters | January 1st 2022 | 2 min read

Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen has been ruled out of 2021 AFCON finals after testing positive for COVID-19. [Agencies]

Nigeria have been hit by a double blow to their attack for the Africa Cup of Nations finals with key strikers Emmanuel Dennis and Victor Osimhen dropping out of their squad for the tournament in Cameroon.

Defenders Leon Balogun and Abdullahi Shehu have also withdrawn because of injury, the Nigerian Football Federation said as it announced a revised 28-man squad yesterday.

Dennis is not being released by Watford because the Nigerian federation did not request him for the tournament in time.

Watford manager Claudio Ranieri earlier this week revealed Nigeria missed the deadline to inform Watford of their intention to select him, giving the club the power to decide whether to release the 24-year-old striker for international duty.

While the struggling Premier League club have said nothing since, Dennis was removed from a revised squad list for the finals in Cameroon, which kicks off on Jan. 9.

Osimhen is also out after contracting COVID-19. He suffered facial fractures playing for Napoli in November in a clash of heads with Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar and required titanium plates and screws fixed to his cheekbone and eye socket.

His club said he would be out for three months but the forward returned to training just before Christmas, wearing a protective mask, and travelled to Nigeria last week.

But he has now contracted the novel coronavirus for a second time and gone into isolation in Nigeria, cancelling a trip back to Italy for a further check up on his cheekbone.

The 23-year-old is asymptomatic, according to a statement by his club Napoli.

"Consequently, the local authorities have ordered that Osimhen self-isolate and the check-up will be rescheduled after he has tested negative and his period of isolation ends," said the statement.

Nigeria have called up Peter Olayinka from Czech club Slavia Prague and Olympiakos winger Henry Onyekuru to replace the two forwards while Semi Ajayi from Championship club West Bromwich Albion and Tyrone Ebuehi, who pays at Venezia in Serie A, come in as defenders.

They play their first Group D game against Egypt in Garoua on Jan. 11.

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