Nigeria went to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ with high hopes of at least reaching the Round of 16. However, the Super Eagles finished bottom of a group also comprising Argentina, Korea Republic and Greece.
The Africans’ premature elimination was, in part, blamed on a lack of goals. Yakubu Aiyegbeni, who scored once, from the spot, in his three appearances at the 19th edition of the world finals, duly found himself out of the thoughts of new coach Samson Siasia, who utilised a number of younger forwards in CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifying.
The move failed to pay dividends. A 2-2 draw at home to Guinea in their final preliminary in October denied Nigeria a place at the continental finals for the first time since 1986.
Siasia was consequently sacked. Yakubu, all of a sudden, had hope of an international future. The powerfully-built 29-year-old began to stake his claim in the form of goals. The Blackburn Rovers striker was on target in a 3-3 draw at Norwich City, and hit a brace as Steve Kean’s side recorded the same result away to Wigan Athletic.
Better was to come. On Saturday, indeed, the former Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Everton man scored all Blackburn’s goals as they beat Swansea City 4-2 to climb off the bottom of the Premier League. It left Yakubu on nine goals in eight games for Rovers in the English top flight.
“I have rediscovered my form lately and that is good for me,” said the man born in Benin City in Nigeria’s south. “I hope it will help my team, Blackburn Rovers, out of the relegation zone.
“It is my dream to keep the team in the Premier League at the end of the season, and ultimately I want to be part of the Nigerian national team under the new coach. But that will depend on if the coach thinks I am good enough to be part of it.”
And Stephen Keshi, who replaced Siasia at the reins last month, has given Yakubu encouragement in his quest to return to the international fold.
"Only the best players will make my team, no matter what anyone thinks,” the 49-year-old former Super Eagles defender told KickOffNigeria.com. "I will pick Yak on form to play for Nigeria if he keeps scoring in the English League. I want to win matches and only the fittest in Europe and Nigeria can deliver results for me."
A two-time Israeli Premier League winner with Maccabi Haifa, he debuted for Nigeria in 2000 and has since netted 21 goals in 57 appearances.
Yakabu will hope to maintain his prolific form away to Sunderland, who lie one place above Blackburn in 17th, on Sunday.