The 2022 FIFA World Cup, the 22nd edition, kicks off in Qatar from 20 November to 18 December 2022.
This will be the first World Cup held in the Arab region and the second World Cup held entirely in Asia after the 2002 tournament in South Korea and Japan.
The tournament is to be the last with a 32-team field; the field is to increase to 48 teams for the 2026 tournament in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
Because of Qatar’s intense summer heat and humidity, this World Cup is coming up in the winter, the first tournament to be held before May and to take place in the northern autumn. It will also be played in a reduced timeframe of 29 days.
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Unfortunately, the ‘Giant of Africa’ will not be at the football’s biggest showpiece as the Super Eagles were booted out of the finals by long-time rivals, Ghana.
But there are a few Nigerians who will be on parade for their respective adopted countries. Below are Nigerian-born players who could light up the World Cup in Qatar:
Bukayo Ayoyinka Saka, born 5 September 2001, is a Nigerian-born English professional footballer who plays as a winger, left-back, or midfielder for the Premier League club Arsenal and the England national team. Saka is known for his attacking incisiveness and creativity and is often considered one of the best young football players in the world.
Saka was born in Ealing, Greater London, to Yoruba parents, Adenike and Yomi Saka, and was the younger of two children. His parents emigrated to London from Nigeria as economic migrants. In an interview, Saka stated the importance of his father, Yomi, in his footballing career.
“He’s a massive inspiration for me. From when I was young, he always kept me grounded, kept me humble,” Saka said.
Saka has spent his entire first-team club career with Arsenal, where he has won an FA Cup and an FA Community Shield, progressively becoming one of Arsenal’s most prolific and influential players. Following the 2020–21 and 2021–22 seasons, he was named Arsenal’s player of the season.
Saka represented England at various youth levels before making his debut for the senior team in October 2020. He was part of England’s squads at UEFA Euro 2020 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Karim David Adeyemi, born on 18 January 2002, is a Nigerian-born German professional footballer who plays as a forward for the Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund and the German national team.
Adeyemi was born in Munich, Germany, to a Nigerian father and a Romanian mother. He is a youth international for Germany, having represented the German under-16s, under-17s and under-21s.
He made his debut for the Germany senior team in a 6–0 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification win over Armenia on 5 September 2021, coming on as a late substitute and scoring his side’s sixth goal in the first minute of second-half injury time.
Samuel Ayomide Adekugbe, born January 16, 1995, is a Nigerian-born Canadian footballer who plays as a left-back for Süper Lig club Hatayspor and the Canada national team.
Adekugbe was eligible to represent England, Nigeria or Canada internationally. In 2012, he was quoted saying he dreamed of playing for England at Wembley. However, he has represented Canada at the youth and senior levels.
He was born in London to parents with Nigerian heritage and lived in England until he was 10 when his family moved to Canada. His younger brother Elijah is also a professional soccer player with Cavalry FC. He is a fan of Manchester City.
Adekugbe received his Canadian permanent residency status on August 23, 2013, which qualifies him as a domestic player on Canadian clubs for MLS roster purposes. He became a Canadian citizen in 2016.
Iké Dominique Ugbo, born 21 September 1998, plays as a forward for Ligue 1 club Troyes. Born in England, he represents the Canadian national team.
Ugbo grew up in Canada and played youth soccer there before returning to England, where he played with the youth team of Chelsea. He had loan spells at Barnsley, Milton Keynes Dons, Scunthorpe United, Roda JC and Cercle Brugge, before signing for Genk in 2021.
He represented England at under-17 and under-20 youth levels, before making his senior international debut for Canada in 2021.
Ugbo was born in Lewisham, Greater London, to Nigerian parents. He moved to Canada with his family when he was four or five.
Manuel Obafemi Akanji, born 19 July 1995, is a Nigerian-born Swiss. He plays as a defender for Manchester City and the Switzerland national team.
He was born in Neftenbach, Switzerland to a Swiss mother and a Nigerian father.
Akanji made two appearances for the Switzerland U-20 national team. His debut was on 7 September 2014 in the 0–0 draw against the German U-20 national team.
In 2014, he was a member of the Switzerland U-21 team and made his debut for them on 26 March in the 0–3 defeat by the Italian U-21 team.
Akanji made his debut in the senior team in the 2–0 win against Faroe Islands in the 2018 World Cup qualification match on 9 June 2017. He was included in the Swiss team’s 23-man squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Noah Arinzechukwu Okafor, born 24 May 2000, is a Nigerian-born Swiss. He plays as a midfielder for Austrian Bundesliga club Red Bull Salzburg and the Switzerland national team.
Born in Binningen, Switzerland, Okafor is of Igbo descent. His father is a Nigerian and his mother Swiss.
Okafor played various international games for the Swiss U-15 and U-17 teams. He played his first game for the U-18 team on 9 May 2018 in a 1–1 draw against the Italian U-18 team.
He made his debut for the senior national team on 9 June 2019 in the 2019 UEFA Nations League third-place game against England, as a 113th-minute substitute for Haris Seferovic.
Okafor scored his first international goal for Switzerland on 15 November 2021, in their World Cup qualifying game against Bulgaria, a win which secured automatic qualification for Switzerland to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.