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Football: GOODBIYI TO OUR WORLD CUP HOPES!; Akinbiyi has Sven quaking in his boots as he spells out his Nigeria dream.

Byline: Darren LEWIS

ADE AKINBIYI has given Sven Goran Eriksson his best Christmas present - by revealing he wants to spearhead Nigeria's World Cup attack against England.

Eriksson was left stunned earlier this month after England were drawn against Argentina, Sweden and the tricky Super Eagles in next summer's Group of Death.

The tough draw means England are set come up against top strikers such Gabriel Batistuta, Hernan Crespo, Sweden's Henrik Larsson and....Akinbiyi.

The frontman, dubbed Akinbadbuy and Akinpanicbuy by his own fans at Leicester, cost Peter Taylor the manager's job at Filbert Street after his pounds 5million buy from Wolves last year.

Akinbiyi's misses in front of goal have also helped to send the Foxes tumbling into the Premiership relegation zone and made him the laughing stock of English football.

But the London-born frontman still believes he can lead the line for Nigeria in Osaka on June 12, ahead of the likes of Arsenal striker Kanu and Ipswich schemer Finidi George.

"It would be my dream to play against England in the World Cup," he said,

"Leicester have not fared well in the league, and we strikers have not been able to find our rhythm as we did last year. But that does not mean we are not good."

Akinbiyi qualifies for Nigeria through his parents. But he is more likely to split Eriksson's sides than any of the Group F defences if his club record is anything to go by.

Last season he scored just nine times for Leicester from 38 shots on target. This season no other striker has had as many opportunities as Akinbiyi without scoring.

Foxes' chief Dave Bassett came out in defence of the misfiring hitman after he was jeered by 22,000 of his own fans in the 4-1 defeat against Liverpool in October.

But Akinbiyi then blew a stack of clear-cut chances in the next game at Blackburn. Last month Opta, the Premiership's official statisticians, revealed the 27-year-old was the man with the worst finishing in English football's top division.

Strikes against Sunderland and Aston Villa and Sunderland in the past two months have done nothing to rid him of the millstone around his neck in subsequent performances. But Akinbiyi, blanked for the World Cup qualifiers, has no worries about throwing himself under the biggest microscope on the planet next summer.

He believes he has a realistic chance of making Nigeria's World Cup squad after the departure of old national coach Jo Bonfrere and the arrival of new boss Amodu Shaibu.

But Shaibu has yet to get on the phone offering him a place in next month's African Nations' Cup in Mali. And amazingly, Akinbiyi said: "I had expected my name to be among the 40 players the new manager invited for the Nations Cup."

Akinbiyi's confidence has recently received a shot in the arm from both Bassett and his close pals, who have all thrown their weight behind him.

But earlier this season the powerfully-built forward admitted he could see why the Filbert Street fans were losing patience.

He said: "I completely understand why the fans were so unhappy and why they booed me."


NUMBER ONE: Michael Owen; OH, NO MISSES: Akinbiyi can't bear to watch; TARGET: Akinbiyi wants to muscle in on Nigeria's World Cup campaign
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 21, 2001
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