Genk forward Paul Onuachu has been handed a Nigeria call-up for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against the Republic of Benin and Lesotho.
The three-time African champions will take on the Squirrels at Stade Charles de Gaulle in Porto Novo on March 27 before facing the Crocodiles three days later at Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos.
Onuachu was surprisingly left out of Nigeria’s 24-man squad released earlier this month, with the player only making the standby list despite his spectacular performances for Genk this season.
The lanky centre-forward has bagged 27 goals across all competitions for the Blue and White, including his strike against Anderlecht in Sunday’s Belgian Cup tie.
Fans took to social media to blast Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr for putting the forward on standby.
Onuachu has now been extended an invitation for the encounters with Moses Simon and other Nigeria stars in France set to miss the encounter due to the country’s Covid-19 protocols.
“Following the uncertainty regarding the availability of players based in France [due to COVID 19 laws guiding the country], Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rohr has extended an invitation to KRC Genk striker Paul Onuachu. Henry Onyekuru was earlier called up to replace injured Samuel Kalu,” read a statement from the NFF media channel.
Nantes have already confirmed the club will not be releasing any of their players for international games outside the European territory.
“Like several clubs in France, FC Nantes will not release its selected international players for matches outside the European area during the next international break scheduled for the end of March,” read a statement from the club website.
“In the absence of health guarantees in accordance with the requirements of the French government in force to date, FC Nantes will not be able to release its internationals outside the limits of the European space.
“This decision, based on FIFA circular 1749 of February 5, is justified by the return protocol imposed on travellers who have travelled outside the European Union, who must in particular respect a seven-day isolation.
“The players concerned would also be unable to take part in the match of the 31st day of Ligue 1 Uber Eats, scheduled for Sunday, April 4, between FC Nantes and OGC Nice [3 p.m.].”
Nigeria lead Group L of the Afcon qualifiers with eight points and victory over Benin or Lesotho will seal their place at the biennial tournament, scheduled for Cameroon in 2022.