EPL

Watford have not disrespected AFCON – Ranieri dismisses claims after Dennis' Nigeria omission

By Sports Desk December 31, 2021

Claudio Ranieri dismissed claims that Watford have disrespected the African Cup of Nations after Emmanuel Dennis was omitted from the Nigeria squad.

Dennis was added to Nigeria's squad in December after initially being left off a 37-man list submitted by former coach Gernot Rohr for the tournament.

That list, though, changed again on Friday as the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) released a statement confirming Dennis had been excused from participating as his club side Watford are "baring fangs".

Ranieri previously stated on Wednesday that Dennis' late call-up was in the Premier League's hands, but has responded to Nigeria's claims by insisting his side have done no wrong.

Asked whether Watford had disrespected AFCON, Ranieri said: "No. They have a lot of players and they changed the manager.

"We were ready. We know we were ready to give them players, but they didn't do this.

"The two boards spoke and then for me it is okay. I am only the manager, only the coach, and I accept everything. Now I speak with [Dennis], but of course he wanted to go and play. But also he wants to help Watford.

"I accept the decision of the board and the Nigeria team. We respect everybody. I knew they were speaking, the [Watford] board and the Nigeria board. I accept every decision they find. For me, it is finished."

The news of Dennis' omission will please Watford supporters, given the forward has either scored or assisted 59 per cent of Watford's 22 league goals this campaign.

In fact, only Mohamed Salah (24) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals this season than Dennis (13 – eight goals, five assists).

Nigeria will also be without Napoli forward Victor Osimhen who was not named in Augustine Eguavoen's squad.

Osimhen suffered a series of facial injuries following a clash of heads with Inter defender Milan Skriniar before the striker tested positive for COVID-19, which subsequently rules him out of the tournament due to travel complications.

The competition gets underway on January 9, with Nigeria opening their campaign against Salah's Egypt two days later.

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