Newcastle's Shola Ameobi hoping for more with Nigeria

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport, Miami
Newcastle United's Shola Ameobi

Newcastle United striker Shola Ameobi is hoping his international debut for Nigeria can earn a call-up for January's Africa Cup of Nations.

The former England Under-21 star was handed a second-half debut by coach Stephen Keshi in the 3-1 win against Venezuela in Florida on Wednesday.

"Any professional wants to play at the highest level," he told BBC Sport.

"It's something I'm really excited about - and hopefully, if I'm selected, we can do something great."

Nigeria will take on African champions Zambia, as well as Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, in Group C of the finals, which run between 19 January and 10 February in South Africa.

Ameobi, whose Nations Cup dreams may displease Newcastle United Alan Pardew, played half an hour against the Latin Americans.

Ameobi earned special praise from fans and officials after helping set up the third goal and the 31-year-old insists he has nothing but respect for his team-mates.

"It's my first game, I just feel honoured to play international football," he added.

"We played good and made life hard for them," he said.

"It was nothing personal, we fought hard and gave our everything.

"They had great support here but we took the game to them. The lads were superb and I'm delighted to have contributed to a good win."

After a goalless first half, Ideye Brown and Nosa Igiebor scored in a five-minute spell early in the second half.

Both teams failed to convert several scoring opportunities in the first half, but the Super Eagles broke through in the 48th minute.

The brilliant Igiebor found Kwambe Solomon, whose cross was tapped in by Brown.

Igiebor made it 2-0 in the 53rd minute blasting a fierce 30-yard shot that landed inside the right post and stunned the pro-Venezuela crowd inside the Marlins Park.

Venezuela pulled a goal back thanks to Frank Fleschcer in the 69th minute.

But Ameobi calmly held-up play before finding Lazio youngster Onazi Ogenyi, who completed the scoring in stoppage time.

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi admitted they had played a tough opponent: "This game will prepare us for what to expect at the Nations Cup.

"The boys turned up the heat in the second half and were duly rewarded.

"We've seen what we can do and learned things here as well."

Nigeria begin their Africa Cup of Nations campaign against Burkina Faso on 21 January and then face Zambia and Ethiopia in Group C.