On Saturday, October 13, 2018, Super Eagles striker, Odion Jude Ighalo joined the hallowed ranks of Nigerian players who have scored hat-tricks for the national team when he put three goals past the Mediterranean Knights of Libya in a 2019 AFCON qualifying match.
The 29-year-old Changchun Yatai of China star was on the scoresheet in the 4th, 58th and 69th minutes to help the three-time African champions beat the boastful Libyans in the race to Cameroon 2019 at the Akwa Ibom International Stadium, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
In getting the hat-trick, Ighalo joined nine other superstars who have scored three goals for the country in the 69 years of Nigeria’s senior team existence.
He joins the likes of the late Rashidi Yekini, Segub Odegbami, Thomson Usiyen, Ike Uche, Victor Ikpeba as the only ten players to have achieved that feat.
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Here is a list of the 10 players who have scored hat-tricks for Nigeria over the years.
1 Buraimoh Abudu
Many new generation fans of the Super Eagles do not know Buraimoh Abudu who became the first national team player to bag a hat-trick while on international duty. Abudu got his three goals in a 10-1 demolition of Dahomey, (now Benin Republic) on November 8, 1959, in a Nkrumah Cup game played in Lagos.
The other goals were scored by Daniel Okwudili, Dejo Fayemi, Albert Onyeawuna and Elkana Onyeali who netted four goals.
2. Paul Hamilton
On February 27, 1963, Paul Hamilton popularly known as ‘Wonder Boy,’ helped himself to a hat-trick to become the second player to score three goals for Nigeria when Senegal was massacred 4-0.
The occasion was the third-place encounter of the Nkrumah Cup after Nigeria was hammered 5-0 by the Black Stars of Ghana in the semi-finals four days earlier.
Hamilton led the rejuvenated Green Eagles to feast on Senegal with Ekpe Asuquo being the scorer of the other goal at the Accra Sports Stadium.
3. Christopher Chukwukadibia
It was only his second match for the Green Eagles but Christopher Chukwukadibia aka Bobo Mordi, bagged his own hat-trick in an international friendly match against Gabon in Libreville. The match played on August 29, 1965, with the Eagles whipping the Panthers 4-1 before their home fans. The other goal was scored by another hot striker, Paul Hamilton.
4. Thompson Usiyan
Thompson Usiyan was the third Nigerian player to bag a hat-trick when he thumped three goals past Benin Republic at the National Stadium in Lagos on February 14, 1977, where the West African neighbours clashed.
The international friendly match ended 7-0 in favour of the Green Eagles and Usiyan who had now become a regular in the senior national team, put the ball past the Beninois goalkeeper three times.
5. Segun Odegbami
Segun Odegbami is one of the most talented players to have played for Nigeria and the one popularly called Mathematical became the fifth player to bag a hat-trick for the Eagles when he scored his 10th, 11th and 12th international goals against the Benin Republic in the qualifying series of the third All Africa Games played on January 14, 1978, in Lagos.
In the match, ‘Mathematical’ who later became the captain of the Eagles proved too hot to be handled by the opponents as he tore through them like a hot knife through butter. Another mesmerizing winger, Adokiye Amesiamaka got a brace in the same match while skipper Christian Chukwu and Godwin Odiye also got their names on the scorers’ sheet.
6. Rashidi Yekini
Before he retired from national team football, the late Rashidi Yekini was the scourge of goalkeepers as he packed thunderbolt in both feet and terrorized opposing defenders with his strength and power.
The gangling ‘Goals Father’ became the sixth Nigerian player to bag a hat-trick on international duty when the Super Eagles crushed Ethiopia 6-0 in the last qualifying match of the Tunisia 1994 Cup of Nations hosted in Lagos on July 14, 1993.
The other goals were scored by Barnabas Imenger, Nduka Ugbade, and goalkeeper Peter Rufai who got his only international goal from the penalty spot.
7. Victor Ikpeba
The Prince of Monaco, Victor Ikpeba, was another Nigerian player who notched a hat-trick to join the ranks of the three-goal heroes. The former African Footballer of the Year helped himself to three goals when the Super Eagles thrashed a stubborn Namibian team 4-0 in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
The goals were his first after he last found the back of the net for the country against Tunisia in the Ghana/Nigeria Nations Cup. Pascal Ojigwe added the fourth goal in the closing stages of the encounter played on September 2, 2000.
8. Ikechukwu Uche
Though Ikechukwu Uche’s hat-trick came in a friendly match against a Portuguese second division side, Farense, in a test match played in Faro on January 15, 2013, he is one of the 10 players who has notched three goals for the national team.
The match was played behind closed doors to ensure the Stephen Keshi-tutored side got maximum concentration for their Nations Cup outing in South Africa. Emmanuel Emenike and John Mikel Obi’s penalty kick completed a 5-0 roasting of the Portuguese club side.
9. Nnamdi Oduamadi
Nnamdi Oduamadi aka Robhino, included his name among the pantheon of greats with his treble against Tahiti in a Fifa Confederation Cup game in 2013. The Super Eagles ran riot in Belo Horizonte with a predictably facile 6-1 victory over a game but painfully limited Tahiti side.
Oduamadi helped himself to a hat-trick, Uwa Echiejile struck twice with two deflected efforts, while Jonathan Tehau also put through his own net.
10. Odion Ighalo
The much vilified Odion Jude Ighalo finally justified the faith Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rorh has in him by silencing his critics with his hat-trick in front of the fans at the Akwa Ibom International Stadium in the AFCON 2019 qualifying match.
Ighalo has been criticized by Nigerian fans after he missed a glorious chance at the 2018 World Cup to take Nigeria to the second round when he missed a sitter against Argentina but on Saturday, October 13, the former Watford star entered the history book by dispatching three past the Libyan goalkeeper.