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StoryJoel Obi Eyeing World Cup Spot With Nigeria

Torino midfielder Joel Obi is aiming to represent Nigeria at this summer’s World Cup finals in Russia. The 26-year-old, who was omitted by the Super Eagles during the previous edition of the global tournament, took a step closer to realising his ambition last month after featuring in the country’s friendlies against Poland and Serbia.

Obi has enjoyed an injury-free season with Torino this term, where he has scored six goals in 24 appearances, and he is keen to continue with the same consistency for his nation. Speaking to BBC Sport, he said: “This big tournament is the ultimate ambition of every professional footballer and I hope to work harder to fulfil that dream. I was heartbroken for missing the World Cup in Brazil, but I now have another big opportunity four years later. Coach [Gernot] Rohr has made it clear that everyone must earn their place in the team. That's equally encouraging and challenging, so I'm looking forward to the competition for a spot.”

The midfielder started his initial professional career with Inter Milan, where he rose from the youth ranks to the first-team in 2010. He thereafter rejected the opportunity to represent Italy at youth level before making his senior debut with Nigeria in 2011. Frequent injuries have since restricted him to just 15 caps for the three-time African champions, but Obi is delighted to have now put his dark days behind him.

Despite the large-scale of imports into the Nigerian national side, the country has not quite lit up at the global stage, and they face a huge task on their hands in order to progress beyond their group. The African nation have been pitted against Argentina, Croatia and Iceland in Group D of the World Cup, and they need to play their ‘A’ game from the off, if they are to surprise Argentina and Croatia, who should be the front-runners to reach the knockout round.