Nigeria will be making a sixth appearance at the FIFA World Cup in Russia starting from this week. The Super Eagles are one of Africa’s five representatives at the Mundial and will be hoping to go beyond the second round for the first time.
For 21-year old Kelechi Iheanacho, he will be playing at the FIFA World Cup for the first time in his career, five years after leading Nigeria’s Under-17s to a global conquest at the United Arab Emirates.
Iheanacho won the tournament’s Golden Ball Award as Nigeria coasted home with the 2013 tournament and after featuring in the Under-20 World Cup in 2015, he will be completing his hattrick of FIFA tournaments in Russia.
“I think it would be the best feeling for everyone,” told the Leicester City forward to www.aclsports.com at the Super Eagles’ Austria base.
“Playing in the senior World Cup is like the best thing in football that anyone would like to be (involved in).
“I am excited but I haven’t even started feeling the excitement, when we get to Russia maybe we will feel how it goes when it comes close, the atmosphere, play the first game, seeing the trophy, it’s going to be amazing. It’s a dream come true to me and as well to everyone.”
World Cup vs Champions League
There has been a growing debate of recent with many modern day footballers preferring the UEFA Champions League to the World Cup.
Iheanacho played for Manchester City in Europe’s finest competition but the Taye Academy product is not taking the comparison, at all.
“No, Never,” he retorted when asked to compare between the two tournaments.
“Of course Champions League is a big, big competition that everyone would like to play in, I promise you that but it’s not in contestant with the World Cup.
“World Cup is a big thing everyone would like to play in. Imagine a country winning the World Cup, compare it to winning the Champions League, there’s a huge gap.
“With all due respect to the UEFA Champions League, it’s a massive competition but I think the World Cup is exceptional.”
On Isaac Success
Iheanacho formed a deadly partnership with former Watford star Isaac Success during their Under-17 days, both players very instrumental to the team’s success at that level.
Success in a recent interview adjudged Iheanacho to be the best player he has ever played with. The Leicester City number 8 was visibly honoured by the mention and also had kind words for Isaac Success.
“I appreciate that. He is a good player as well. At that Under-17 World Cup, him playing as a striker and me behind him, for me was the best.
“When we played at the Nations Cup, he was running riot on the left, I was running on the right in a 4-4-2, squaring the ball for each other. He is one striker I would like to play with in the future in the Super Eagles and at club level, he’s a good player,” submitted Iheanacho.
As analysed by Iheanacho regarding his partnership with Isaac Success, he thrived playing just behind either Success or Taiwo Awoniyi in those Under 17 Championships.
He would then have his game modified on arrival in England with Manuel Pellegrini opting to play him as a centre forward for Manchester City. Many have often pondered on how best to deploy Iheanacho in order to bring out the best in him.
He sure knows himself and what is best for him:
“If I am told to pick where I will like to play, I will like to play behind the striker,” posited Iheanacho.
“Either (as a second striker) in a 4-4-2 or behind the striker. That’s my favourite position.”
In whatever capacity he is required to feature in, Nigerians will be hoping that Kelechi Promise Iheanacho will be ready to deliver on some promises when the Nigerian Eagles begin their World Cup campaign against Croatia in Kaliningrad on Saturday.