Riyadh: Odion Ighalo crashed to the Saint Petersburg turf, desolate. A Lionel Messi wonder goal had helped extinguish his FIFA World Cup dream.
Ighalo hadn’t even departed Krestovsky Stadium by the time he was obsessing over Qatar 2022. The Nigeria striker knew he’d be 33 at the time. He was desperate to be there.
And he was. Yet not in a capacity Ighalo could have ever imagined. The Lagos native was part of Nigeria squad that agonisingly lost on away goals to arch-rivals Ghana in a playoff for a place at the 22nd World Cup. Ighalo nevertheless travelled to Qatar to passionately support a country he had never even stepped foot in two years ago.
After a fruitful spell at Al Shabab, Ighalo crossed Riyadh to join Al Hilal in January 2021 – just days before they debuted in the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021. It was the start of a love affair between the player and the Saudi Arabian superpower.
FIFA+ caught up with Ighalo to discuss his goalscoring exploits, Al Hilal’s ambitious quest to beat the likes of Flamengo and Real Madrid to the Morocco 2022 trophy, the passion of his club’s fans, his admiration for Salem Al Dawsari, Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe, and his Qatar 2022 experience.
Five Asian players who impressed at the FIFA Club World Cup
Dubai: The FIFA Club World Cup offers clubs from the across the world an opportunity to test their skills against the finest opponents from every continent, and over the years many an Asian player has left their mark in the competition.
With the next edition, where the continent will be represented by Al Hilal SFC in Morocco, fast approaching, the-AFC.com recalls five players who impressed in the competition.
Europe Wrap: Mitoma nets stunner; Dabbagh bags brace
Kuala Lumpur: Kaoru Mitoma continued his incredible run of form in England’s Premier League as the Japanese star scored his third goal in four league games in his side’s 2-2 draw with Leicester City at the weekend.
Another Asian in goalscoring form is Palestine’s Oday Dabbagh, who doubled up in Arouca’s big victory over Portimonense in Portugal, while there was a winning debut for Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan in the Netherlands.
Elsewhere, Kyogo Furuhashi remains red-hot in Scotland, Ayase Ueda found the back of the net in Belgium and the Bundesliga returned in Germany, so join the-AFC.com as we bring you up to speed with how the Asian stars are performing across Europe.
Kuala Lumpur: After just under five and a half years in charge, Park Hang-seo has stepped down from his role as Vietnam head coach following a period of unprecedented success for the Golden Star Warriors, both at senior and U-23 levels.
The Korean tactician has gained legendary status in the Southeast Asian country after bringing through a 'Golden Generation' of talent that excelled both at the regional and continental levels and took Vietnam to new heights in the football world.
While last week's 1-0 defeat to Thailand in the second leg of the 2022 AFF Cup final ultimately meant Park could not go out on a high following a 3-2 aggregate loss, he departs with his head held high after a remarkable spell of a side he took charge of in September 2017.
Pattaya: The AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup™ returns with Thailand hosting the 2023 edition which will see 16 teams vying for continental glory.
Five previous champions are in the mix with Japan aiming to defend the 2019 title won on the beaches of Phuket.
An added incentive for the teams is that the top three sides will join hosts United Arab Emirates at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2023 so join the-AFC.com as we take a sneak peek at what lies ahead in the March 16-26 tournament in Pattaya for Groups A and B.