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World Cup hopes drive fit-again Onyekuru

He admits his hopes depend on how he performs in the next two months as he comes back from a serious knee injury.

The 20-year-old is on loan at Belgian club Anderlecht from Everton.

“I have to prove that I’m able and worthy to go and play – once I do that – it’s up to the manager to select the team,” he told BBC Sport.

“There is a lot of competition which is good. We have a strong team good enough to represent the country very well.”

It was originally feared he would be out for up to six months after he suffered the knee injury in an encounter with former team Eupen three days before Christmas.

An extended layoff would have ruled him out of the summer’s World Cup finals, but a swift return to Everton to follow his rehabilitation programme has helped his quick recovery.

“I feel great. I’m just thankful to God for getting me through this injury and all the medical team at both clubs for their help,” said Onyekuru, who signed a five year deal  when he moved to Merseyside back in June.

“To be able to come back without having surgery is a blessing.”

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr has also boosted Onyekuru’s hopes by saying there is still a chance for someone to make the squad by impressing in the next couple of weeks.

“Coach Rohr says the World Cup door has not been shut against any player and is happy that Onyekuru is back,” team spokesman Toyin Ibitoye told BBC Sport.

“We hope he’s back better, stronger, hungrier and sharper than he was before his layoff.”

Onyekuru’s 22 goals for his Belgian top-flight club Eupen last season caught the eyes of the Super Eagles coach and he was given a run out in Nigeria’s last World Cup qualifier in Algeria in November when he came on in the second half of the 1-1 draw.

Nine goals in 19 league games and four appearances in the Uefa Champions League matches for the Brussels outfit before his injury made a deep impression on Rohr.

In his absence, the team has formed a great bond and Onyekuru knows he could face a battle to earn a spot but is determined to prove himself.

However, he is cautious about the value of his past form in the competition for striking places in Rohr’s final 23-man squad for Russia.

“I had a good chat with coach Rohr, he wished me well and I would love to use these remaining games to show I’m back and ready to soar with the Super Eagles at the World Cup,” he added.

“Everything is God’s plan. I am still young and in my career maybe I can play in two or three World Cups, but for now I am focused on playing well for Anderlecht, and see what happen in the summer.

“It’s everyone’s dream to play in a World Cup so of course that is the goal.”


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