Odion Ighalo insisted on Tuesday that team success is far more important than personal accolades with his goals driving Nigeria ’ s run to the quarter – finals in Egypt .
The China- based forward finished as the leading scorer in qualifying for this year ’s Africa Cup of Nations , and Ighalo is level alongside Senegal star Sadio Mane and Algeria ’s Adam Ounas at the top of the charts with three goals so far at the finals.
“If I don ’t win the golden boot but won the trophy I ’d be very happy because we are here to do that ,” Ighalo said ahead of Wednesday ’s clash against South Africa in Cairo .
“ I didn’ t say I ’ m not interested but we are here as a team and want to try and win it as a team .
I ’m a striker, I want to score goals , but if they don’ t come and we win the game I will be more satisfied. ”
Ighalo came in for sharp criticism — and even death threats — after the Super Eagles were knocked out in the group stage at last year ’ s World Cup . Only the encouragement of coach Gernot Rohr prevented him from quitting.
“After the World Cup Ighalo was criticised much more than normal , ” Rohr recounted . “We spoke together and I saw that he’ s very strong mentally .
“Even if his family was a bit scared , he accepted the challenge to come back and play in Seychelles in the first game after the World Cup and gave his answer on the pitch .
He was the best goalscorer in the qualifiers and when you have someone so strong, it ’s really happy for the team and the coach.”
After scoring the winner in Nigeria ’ s opening Cup of Nations game against Burundi, Ighalo delivered a match-winning performance against defending champions Cameroon in the last 16.
He scored twice and set up Alex Iwobi for the decisive goal in Alexandria as Nigeria rallied from 2 -1 down to earn a thrilling 3 – 2 victory.
Ighalo used his feet to again hit back at his detractors .
“I don ’t really pay attention to critics . I ’ m a professional and people are bound to criticise me .
I think everybody here has been criticised one way or another but you don ’t let that get to you, ” said Ighalo.
“As long as the coach is satisfied with my job and everything I give on the field, I don ’t really pay attention to what people say outside.
I just give my best in every game I play . Sometimes it won ’t be enough
but I ’ m satisfied I gave my best.”
His best has served Nigeria well here , but Ighalo is aware there is still a long way to go as the country attempts to capture a fourth Cup of Nations title .
“I ’ve seen it all in football , for club and country . I ’ m happy things are going well but I ’ m not going to get carried away because there ’s still a lot to do.”