Nigeria’s Utaka shedding no tears over 2014 World Cup snub

Africa Press-Nigeria:

Missing out on a spot in Stephen Keshi’s squad to Brazil was unsatisfactory for the forward, but he saw it as a stepping stone
John Utaka has opened up on his omission from Nigeria’s 2014 World Cup squad, claiming he “just moved on and forgot about it”.

He former Lens and Portsmouth forward enjoyed an appreciable career at the international level, racking 49 caps in total and scoring six goals.

Despite his notable performances in Sivasspor, a team he joined from Montpellier on a two-year contract in 2013, he could not make Stephen Keshi’s team to the global football showpiece staged in Brazil.

Six years later, Utaka revealed that not featuring in a third World Cup was a disappointment – found the cut tough, but saw his omission as a challenge to drive him onwards.

“I was disappointed but not upset. That was just it, I didn’t question anything, I did well for Nigeria and it was an honour to put on the National jersey. I just moved on and forgot about it,” the 38-year-old told Ojbsport.

“I did not really have a low point during my playing career. Maybe, I can say when I was not selected for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, it was somehow a low point for me.

“I saw it as a challenge because you know a football game comes with a lot of pressure. So whenever I come across a challenge I just brush it off because it can set you back if you dwell on it.

“I just turn to the bright side, take the positive part and keep going.”

Having shot into international limelight playing for Qatar’s Al-Sadd in 2001, Utaka featured prominently for Nigeria at the 2002 World Cup staged in South Korea and Japan, albeit, Festus Onigbinde’s men failed to get past Group B that had Argentina, Sweden and England.

He made Lars Lagerback’s team to the 2010 edition staged in South Africa, nevertheless, he was not listed for any game.

Before drawing the curtain on his international career in 2012, Utaka featured in the 2004, 2006 and 2008 Africa Cup of Nations where he won bronze in all.

Alongside compatriot Nwankwo Kanu, the 38-year-old contributed to Portsmouth’s 2008 FA Cup triumph.

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