Nigeria’s attack has been dealt a double blow ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon, as key strikers Emmanuel Dennis and Victor Osimhen have been left out of the squad.

The Nigerian Football Federation announced a revised 28-man squad on Friday, with defenders Leon Balogun and Abdullahi Shehu withdrawing due to injury.

Watford will not release Dennis because the Nigerian federation failed to request him in time for the tournament. Nigeria missed the deadline to notify Watford of their intention to select him earlier this week, giving the club the power to decide whether or not to release the 24-year-old striker for international duty.

Dennis was removed from a revised squad list for the finals in Cameroon, which begin on January 9, while the struggling Premier League club has said nothing since.

After contracting Covid-19, Osimhen is also out. In a head-on collision with Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar, while playing for Napoli in November, he suffered facial fractures that required titanium plates and screws to be inserted into his cheekbone and eye socket.

His club said he’d be out for three months, but the forward returned to training just before Christmas and traveled to Nigeria last week, wearing a protective mask. However, he has contracted Covid-19 a second time and has been placed in isolation in Nigeria, canceling a trip back to Italy for a follow-up on his cheekbone.

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According to a statement from his club, Napoli, the 23-year-old is asymptomatic.

“As a result, local authorities have ordered that Osimhen self-isolate and the check-up will be rescheduled once he has tested negative and his isolation period has ended,” Napoli said.

Nigeria has called up Peter Olayinka from Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic and Olympiakos winger Henry Onyekuru from Olympiakos to replace the two forwards, while Semi Ajayi from West Bromwich Albion in the Championship and Tyrone Ebuehi from Serie A club Venezia have been called up as defenders.

On January 11, they face Egypt in their first Group D match in Garoua.

Nigeria’s Afcon squad has been reshuffled.

Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs), John Noble (Enyimba), Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam), and Francis Uzoho (Sparta Rotterdam) are the goalkeepers (Omonia Nicosia)

Defenders: Torino’s Olaoluwa Aina, West Bromwich Albion’s Semi Ajayi, Alanyaspor’s Chidozie Awaziem, Paderborn’s Jamilu Collins, Venezia’s Tyrone Ebuehi, Orlando Pirates’ Olisa Ndah, Leganes’ Kenneth Omeruo, FC Porto’s Zaidu Sanusi, William Troost (Watford)

Midfielders: Glasgow Rangers’ Joseph Ayodele-Aribo, CSKA Moscow’s Chidera Ejuke, Everton’s Alex Iwobi, Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi, Huesca’s Kelechi Nwakali, and Huesca’s Frank Onyeka (Brentford)

Forwards: Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin), Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal), Odion Ighalo (Al Shabab), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk), Peter Olayinka (Slavia Prague), Henry Onyekuru (Olympiakos), Moses Simon (Nantes), Sadiq Umar (Leicester City), Ahmed Mus (Almeria)

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