Ashleigh Plumptre: Ex-England youth defender set for Nigeria debut

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Ashleigh PlumptreFormer England youth international Ashleigh Plumptre plays for Leicester City

Former England youth international Ashleigh Plumptre could make her competitive Nigeria debut against Ivory Coast in the Africa Women's Cup of Nations (Awcon) qualifier in February.

Capped 30 times by England at youth level, Plumptre has been named in Nigeria's squad for the two-legged final qualifying round scheduled for 18 and 23 February in Abuja and Abidjan respectively.

"It's been a long wait and I look forward to joining this amazing Super Falcons group," Plumptre told BBC Sport Africa.

"To represent your country at major tournaments is the primary objective for every professional athlete and that is my ambition."

The centre-back needed to prove her eligibility and dedicated three months to acquiring all the required documents - a Nigerian passport and her grandfather's documents and then officially requesting clearance from the four home nations (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) as well from Nigerian internal affairs.

Plumptre joins a growing list of foreign-born players like Michelle Alozie, Patricia George and Nicole and Toni Payne, who all opted to represent the nine-time African champions.

American coach Randy Waldrum has named a strong squad including captain and Africa's most decorated footballer Asisat Oshoala, alongside the experienced sextet of Onome Ebi, Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene, Rita Chikwelu, Desire Oparanozie, Francisca Ordega and Osinachi Ohale.

The continent's most successful national side, Nigeria are the only African team to have played in all eight Women's World Cups since 1991 and have played at every Women's Nations Cup since it started in 1998.

They have also featured in three Olympic Games but failed to qualify for the last three quadrennial events in 2012, 2016 and 2020.

However, Ivory Coast, who stopped Nigeria from reaching the last Olympic Games, stands between them and a place at July's 2022 Awcon tournament in Morocco.

To reach this stage, Nigeria edged the Black Queens of Ghana 2-1 on aggregate in October, while the Lady Elephants blew away Niger Republic 20-0 on aggregate.

The women's continental showpiece event in Morocco doubles as the African qualifiers to the 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Nigeria's squad to face Ivory Coast:

Goalkeepers: Chiamaka Nnadozie (Paris FC, France); Tochukwu Oluehi (Maccabi Kishronot Hadera, Israel); Christy Ohiaeriaku (Sunshine Queens); Yewande Balogun (USA)

Defenders: Rofiat Imuran (Rivers Angels); Glory Ogbonna (Santa Teresa FC, Spain); Onome Ebi (Minsk FC, Belarus); Osinachi Ohale (Deportivo Alaves, Spain); Ayomide Ojo (Edo Queens); Ashleigh Plumptre (Leicester City, England); Joy Duru (Nasarawa Amazons); Nicole Payne (West Virginia University, USA); Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash, USA); Akudo Ogbonna (Edo Queens)

Midfielders: Peace Efih (Kiryat Gat, Israel); Yetunde Aluko (WFC Ramat Hasharon, Israel); Amanda Mbadinuju (Bayelsa Queens); Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene (Eskilstuna FC, Sweden); Grace Igboamalu (Bayelsa Queens); Toni Oyedupe Payne (Sevilla FC, Spain); Regina Otu (Minsk FC, Belarus); Christy Ucheibe (SL Benfica, Portugal); Rasheedat Ajibade (Atletico Madrid, Spain); Rita Chikwelu (Madrid CFF, Spain); Amarachi Okoronkwo (Nasarawa Amazons); Deborah Abiodun (Rivers Angels)

Forwards: Esther Okoronkwo (AS Saint Etienne, France); Francisca Ordega (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Desire Oparanozie (Dijon FC, France); Vivian Ikechukwu (Rivers Angels); Gift Monday (FC Robo Queens); Juliet Bassey (Bayelsa Queens); Ifeoma Onumonu (NY/NJ Gotham FC, USA); Uchenne Kanu (Tigres Femenil, Mexico); Asisat Oshoala (FC Barcelona, Spain)

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