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UCL: Nigerian players that qualified, crashed out of Champions League

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The group stages of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League are done and dusted with 16 out of the 32 teams progressing to the knockout phase.

Big names like Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Liverpool strolled into the next round without much stress but the likes of Real Madrid, PSG left it a bit late to secure their qualification.

Manchester United were the biggest causality, as RB Leipzig knocked them out and down to the Europa League alongside the likes of Ajax, RB Salzburg and Olympiacos.

However, throughout the entire six matchdays, Nigeria was represented by former and current Super Eagles stars including, Odion Ighalo, David Okereke and Frank Onyeka, amongst others.

At least six players who identify with the Super Eagles (excluding those of Nigerian descent) featured in the group stage but only one of them was able to make it into the Round of 16 of the Champions League.

See the list of players who represented Nigeria in the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League below:

Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto): The Super Eagles defender and his FC Porto team slug it out with Manchester City, Marseille and Olympiacos in Group B.

 

Zaidu Sanusi

With four wins, a draw and a loss, Sanusi’s Porto ended the group in second place with 13 points, three behind group winner Man City.

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Sanusi’s Opening goal against Marseille in November helped them to a 2-0 win which strengthened their position in second place.

Porto could face any of the top qualifiers including Liverpool and Bayern Munich when the knockout stages resume in February.

The Portuguese team who currently rank third behind Sporting and Benfica in the Primeira Liga will find out their next Champions League opponents after UEFA conducts the Round of 16 draws later this month.

Odion Ighalo (Manchester United): The former Super Eagles and Watford striker helped Manchester United to the semi-final of the Europa League last season but failed to break into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in his first-ever Champions League appearance.

Ighalo speaks on Manchester United loan extension

Odion Ighalo

The arrival of Edinson Cavani meant less playing time for the loanee whose contract expires in January and Ighalo struggled more to make an appearance in the UCL for United.

He made a futile cameo during United’s 3-1 home defeat to PSG after a red card to Fred saw Ole’s men depleted but he was unable to pull any surprises during the game having come on as a late minute sub for Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the 90th minute.

Ighalo crashed out of the UCL as a sub for United in the 3-2 defeat to RB Leipzig on Tuesday and may never feature for the team in Europe when the Europa League returns in February 2021.

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Frank Onyeka (FC Midtjylland):

Frank Onyeka

The 22-year-old defensive midfielder scored in the 4-1 win against Slavia Praha in the 2nd leg of the UCL play-off as his Danish Superliga club FC Midtjylland powered their way into the Champions League.

Grouped alongside Liverpool, Ajax and Atalanta, Onyeaka and his team failed to make it through the difficult group as they managed only two draws, losing four games to finish at the bottom of Group D.

Onyeka failed to score in the group stages as Midtjylland crashed out of the 2020/21 Champions League.

Azubuike Okechukwu (Istanbul Basaksehir): The 5ft7 tall 23-year-old midfielder had a difficult task with his team in Group H alongside top guns, Paris Saint Germain, Manchester United and RB Leipzig.

Azubuike Okechukwu (Istanbul Basaksehir)

Istanbul lost their first two matches to PSG and RBL but pulled a shocking 2-1 win against Premier League giants, Man Utd in Istanbul which became a dent to the Old Trafford team’s good start.

Onyeaka returned with his team to face Ighalo’s side in England, hoping to repeat the Turkey drama but the fell by 4-1 to the Red Devils.

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Istanbul, from then on, failed to secure another win, losing five games in total out of six, with a deficit of 11 goals as they finish bottom of the group with three points.

PSG topped the group with 12 points and seven goals advantage after four wins and two loses, ahead of RB Leipzig who had similar stats but fell short on goal difference.

Manchester United took third with three wins and three loses in six matches.

David Okereke and Emmanuel Dennis (Club Brugge): The striking duo of Okereke and Dennis and their Belgian First Division A side were pitched against the likes of Lazio, Borussia Dortmund and Zenith in Group F.

Emmanuel Dennis and David Okereke – Club Brugge

After an opening game win against Zenith, Brugge eventually finished third in the group with two wins, draws and loses respectively.

Failure to defeat Lazio in the 2-2 draw on Tuesday saw them settle for the Europa League spot with just two points behind the Italians.

Dennis’ 63rd-minute opener helped Brugge to a 2-1 win over Zenith away in Russia and that was the only goal between both Nigerian strikers throughout the tournament.
They join Ighalo’s Manchester United in the Europa League but unlike the 31-year-old, they have more chances of featuring for Brugge when the tournament resumes with the Round of 32 in February.
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