Shola Ameobi dreaming of Nigeria Nations Cup call-up

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport, Lagos
Shola Ameobi

Newcastle United striker Shola Ameobi says an Africa Cup of Nations call-up for Nigeria would be a dream come true.

The 31-year-old made his long-awaited debut in the Super Eagles' 3-1 friendly win against Venezuela last month.

Ameobi earned praise for setting up the game's winner, with assistant coach Daniel Amokachi saying he showed "needed class and experience".

"Every professional player loves to play at major tournaments and I'm no different," Ameobi told BBC Sport.

"You can call me a late bloomer at international level but I'm grateful to God for this big opportunity."

The former England Under-21 was brought on as a second-half substitute by Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi in the friendly tie in Florida.

And he is now targeting a coveted place in Keshi's Nations Cup squad in South Africa.

"The African Cup of Nations is what the European Championship is to others - so it will be a dream come true to represent my motherland.

"This is a big chance and I know this is the closest for me. Hopefully, I can live that dream when and if selected.

"I need to earn it because the are several players out there equally deserving of that chance to represent a country like Nigeria."

Ameobi, who was born in Zaria, northern Nigeria, before moving to England with his parents at the age of five, has just returned from a groin injury.

After starting up front alongside his younger brother Sammy in the club's Europa League tie against Bordeaux on Thursday, he is now ready to fight for a place at club and international level.

"There's always that healthy rivalry to fight for a place," he said.

"You just need to keep giving your best and hope to stay fit and healthy.

"The club is still in Europe and Nigeria is preparing for a big tournament. It's a big honour to be considered by both."

Nigeria will take on African champions Zambia, as well as Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, in Group C of the tournament, which takes place between 19 January and 10 February.