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Nigeria qualify for Africa Cup of Nations; Jorginho returns to Chelsea early from Italy duty

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Saturday international round-up

Italy v Portugal - UEFA Nations League A Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Victor Moses may be officially retired from international football, but if the Nigerian Football Federation are serious about trying to convince him to return, they can dangle the prospect of playing in an Africa Cup of Nations tournament for the second time in his career. Moses helped lead Nigeria to the 2013 ACN title, being named in the Team of the Tournament and winning the Fair Player of the Tournament award as well.

Unfortunately, the Super Eagles failed to qualify for either the 2015 or the 2017 editions, but they will be there next summer — the tournament was finally moved from winter to summer to better align with the European football season — after a 1-1 draw against South Africa in Johannesburg ensured they finished at least second in their qualifying group.

Surprisingly, Ola Aina was left out of the squad entirely by head coach Gernot Rohr — the 22-year-old may be carrying a small injury, in fairness — but fellow Chelsea loanee Kenneth Omeruo, who’s been excelling at Leganés in La Liga, started in central defense. A goal for either side inside of the first 30 minutes was all the scoring that was needed to book their spot in the expanded final tournament (from 16 to 24 teams) that will take place in Cameroon from mid-June to mid-July.


Back in Europe, another draw made decisive difference, as a scoreless 90 minutes between Italy and Portugal in Milan ensured that the reigning European Champions won Group 3 of League A and thus have become the first team to qualify for the final knockout tournament to determine the winner of the inaugural Nations League exercise.

Italy called up Emerson and Jorginho for this one, but only the latter took part in what was Italy’s fourth draw in the last six games. The Azzurri dominated possession, as one would expect with Jorginho and Verratti in midfield, but were once again let down by their finishing, and managed just 3 shots on target from 15.

In better news, Jorginho is one of several players who has been excused from Italy’s friendly against the USA on Tuesday, and thus gets a few extra days of rest before the return of proper football and the busy holiday period for Chelsea.