World Cup: Nigeria's Troost-Ekong feels UK's stance on Covid is 'unfair'

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The Nigeria team before their 2022 World Cup qualifier against LiberiaSeven of the players who started for Nigeria against Liberia have left the team to return to Europe

Watford's William Troost-Ekong is unhappy to be one of eight Nigerians, all based in the United Kingdom, who cannot play Tuesday's 2022 World Cup qualifier in Cape Verde due to Covid-19 restrictions.

As Cape Verde is on the British government's travel red list, anyone returning from the country to the UK has to quarantine in a hotel for ten days, so forcing players to miss matches for their clubs.

Along with Troost-Ekong, Leicester City duo Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi joined Everton's Alex Iwobi, Watford's Oghenekaro Etebo and Rangers duo Leon Balogun and Joe Aribo in returning to the UK over the weekend.

"We want to be part of the team and I feel like we are neglecting the team a bit by not travelling with them to Cape Verde," vice-captain Troost-Ekong told BBC Sport Africa.

"It's a difficult one because obviously it's a rule that has been set by the UK government. But it's not necessarily fair, because the situation in different countries like Italy or Spain or other leagues that some of the boys are coming from, is probably similar but they are then allowed to travel and play.

"It's going to be a disadvantage for us because it's good to have all your best players. I feel like some of the players that will be missing out would definitely improve the squad by being there."

One man the Super Eagles could certainly do with is Iheanacho, who scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Liberia on Friday - a result good enough for them to top Group C despite playing only once.

The row over quarantine restrictions for players returning from red zone countries led the Confederation of African Football to ask the UK government to exempt African internationals, but the request was turned down.

Long-term issues resurface

Nigeria defender Leon BalogunNigeria defender Leon Balogun says despite missing several players the Super Eagles are strong enough to beat Cape Verde

However, Balogun, who plays for Scottish champions Rangers, is confident a depleted Nigeria can still secure a positive result against the Blue Sharks on Tuesday.

"We have to deal with things the way they are. It is what it is and a shame but this is life now," he explained philosophically. "I remain confident that the lads who are going to play will get the job done."

The Super Eagles have featured in six of the past seven World Cup finals and the team strongly depends on its Premier League stars in its quest for a ticket to Qatar.

Over the weekend, other longer-term issues - such as unpaid bonuses and disagreement over travelling plans between the team and president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) - reared their ugly heads.

Ekong refused to be drawn on the problems making headlines in the local media, insisting the squad should try to avoid defeat away and consolidate their lead in Group C.

"The setback of missing us from the UK could also be an opportunity because I believe in the squad that we will have," he added.

"For all the boys who maybe necessarily have not had a chance to play so much so far, this is their game and I think they will be burning to do well and make everyone proud.

"We are going to have a different role now by supporting the team and hope they play well and hopefully win because we need to handle our business on the pitch."

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