Shola Ameobi has only been playing for Nigeria for a short time having initially declared for England. He made his debut for the African champions in November 2012. On Tuesday night he scored his third international goal propelling himself into serious contention for a place in the World Cup squad.
Nigeria secured qualification to next summer's World Cup at the weekend. They beat Ethiopia 4-1 over two legs, to safely pass through to their fifth World Cup. The Super Eagles have a good choice when it comes to strikers. Victor Moses has been instrumental for them since making his debut last year. There is also Emmanuel Emenike of Fenerbahce, and former West Ham loanee Victor Obinna who now plays in Russia with Lokomotiv Moscow. Shola has a fair bit of competition on his hands.
He made the most of a start against Euro 2012 runners-up Italy on Tuesday night. Italy put out a strong side, and took the lead through former Manchester United player, Giuseppe Rossi. Bright Dike equalised for the African side, before Ameobi took centre stage. He expertly converted Francis Benjamin's cross. From a tight angle he flicked his foot out to volley past PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.
His goal sent the Nigerian fans into raptures, and they were clearly delighted to be leading a side of Italy's calibre. Italy did go on to equalise however through another North East based player. Sunderland's Emanuele Giaccherini scored the fourth goal of the game early into the second half.
Whilst Ameobi has put forward his case to Nigerian manager Stephen Keshi, many of his club teammates will be praying they can make it to Brazil. With many of the Newcastle United side France regulars, they find themselves in a difficult position having lost the first leg of their play-off with Ukraine 2-0. Right now it looks like Ameobi is the most likely to be heading to Brazil ahead of Loic Remy, Mathieu Debuchy, Moussa Sissoko, and Yohan Cabaye.
Shola Ameobi was once heralded by then England boss Sven Goran-Eriksson in a group of young strikers who could go on to have a big impact for the national side. 'The Mackem slayer' as he is known by Newcastle fans never got the chance at senior level, despite scoring seven goals for the Under-21's. Now at the age of 32, his chance has come to shine on the international stage.
Ameobi is a striker who perhaps is underrated. He has spent his whole career at Newcastle bar a short loan spell at Stoke City. Newcastle fans demand high standards and they are a club consistently striving for at least a top ten finish. He has been part of that all his career and has worked hard to stay at the top level of English football., He is still an effective target man as shown by the fact he was in the starting line-up for the recent wins over Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.
I have always been a fan of Shola; a hardworking forward, dedicated to his club. He now has a great chance late into his career to grace the greatest stage of them all. Good things come to those who wait.
Should Ameobi have ever been given a chance for England?
image: © blenky64