Team news ahead of the World Cup Qualifier between Azerbaijan and the Republic of Ireland on Saturday; start 5:00 pm
Chiedozie Ogbene will be forever grateful for the decision her father made, which meant he grew up in Cork instead of Florida.
The Rotherham midfielder became the first African-born player to represent the Republic of Ireland in the senior category when he came off the bench in a goalless friendly draw in Hungary in June.
However, as he prepares for Saturday night’s World Cup Qualifier in Azerbaijan, live Sky sports – The 24-year-old, who began his life in Nigeria, has admitted that things could have been very different if his father Emmanuel had accepted a job offer on the east coast of the United States.
When asked if on a dark and humid night in Ireland, he had ever questioned that decision, Ogbene said with a smile: “In fact, I never thought of it that way, when you get old and go through the winter days and you are thinking, ‘Dad, what made you come here?’
“I guess it was the best decision he made for his family and I’m reaping the rewards for being here. I really enjoy the culture and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons my father chose Ireland over Florida.
“He knew the Irish that he had worked with and he really enjoyed it and chose to be here. I don’t know exactly why, but obviously it is a country that provides a lot of opportunities for foreigners.”
Ogbene is one of several men in the Irish setup with Nigerian heritage (defender Andrew Omobamidele and forward Adam Idah are also on the current squad) and he is proud of the diversity within the group.
Stephen Kenny’s players were booed for kneeling in Hungary and he was one of those who spoke out loudly afterward, a move that was widely applauded at home.
He said, “That’s what we have here, that’s the culture we have, the union in this nation and that’s why I’m so proud to be here.”
Azerbaijan Coach Gianni De Biasi is likely to put Gara Garayev and Toral Bayramov in midfield alongside Emin Mahmudov, who scored the net against Ireland last month.
Forward Ramil Sheydayev is hoping to finally break through in the first XI on Saturday ahead of Ali Ghorbani or Mahir Emreli, having started on the bench in all five heats thus far.
The central Omobamidele is ready to receive his third international match for Republic of Ireland alongside Shane Duffy and John Egan in the last three.
Will Keane, the younger brother of Everton defender Michael Keane, received his first call-up and will be eager to win his first international game.
Manchester City goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, on loan at Portsmouth, impressed during last month’s international break and is expected to keep his place.
With Seamus Coleman ruled out with injury, Matt Doherty will likely start on the right back, with Enda Stevens in line to operate on the opposite flank. Jeff Hendrick could win his 65th international game in midfield.
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- The only previous meeting between Azerbaijan and the Republic of Ireland was in the reverse meeting in qualifying for this year’s World Cup, a 1-1 draw at Aviva Stadium.
- Azerbaijan have only avoided defeat in two of their last 15 major tournament qualifying matches (D2 L13), with one of them drawing with the Republic of Ireland in September.
- The Republic of Ireland have won one of their last 17 games in all competitions (D9 L7), with 16 of those games under Stephen Kenny.
- The Republic of Ireland has not won all five of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers (D2 L3), the first time they have failed to win any of the first five qualifying rounds of a major tournament in a campaign since the qualifying rounds for EURO 1972 , when none of the six won. matches (D1 L5).
- Azerbaijani midfielder Emin Mahmudov is the only player who scored for them in the qualification for the World Cup 2022 (three goals), he has had the most joint shots (5), created the most chances (10), made the most tackles (26) and completed the most passes (245) of any Azerbaijani player. In fact, Mahmudov has made eight more tackles than anyone from any country in qualifying.
- At home, Azerbaijan have lost six of their last seven major tournament qualifying matches (D1) since defeating San Marino 5-1 in September 2017. They have scored 18 goals in those seven winless matches.
- Republic of Ireland coach Stephen Kenny has given 23 internationals to teenagers: Bazunu (7), Parrott (6), Idah (5), Knight (3), Omobamidele (2), one more than the four coaches previous permanents (Staunton, Trapattoni, O’Neill & McCarthy in their second period) combined (22 caps).
- Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu has won seven internationals as a teenager, with only Robbie Keane (18) and Ian Harte (12) winning more before turning 20 in Irish history.
How to follow
Azerbaijan vs Republic of Ireland live Soccer Sky Sports from 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, starting at 5:00 p.m. Sky sports Customers can view clips of the game on the Live Match Blog at the Sky sports website and app. Highlights will also be posted on the Sky sports digital platforms shortly after the final whistle.