Chiedozie Ogbene has admitted he could not have expected to make such a eye-catching start to his international career after helping the Republic of Ireland end a disappointing World Cup campaign in style.
The 24-year-old Rotherham winger marked his fifth senior appearance for his country with a second goal to cap an energy-packed display in Sunday night’s 3-0 final qualifier victory in Luxembourg and further enhance his blossoming reputation.
Ogbene, who has scored just a single goal in club football since moving to England with Brentford in January 2018, is thrilled with the impact he has made under Ireland boss Stephen Kenny and is hungry for more.
He said: “Good things are happening to me right now. I do believe in my own ability, the same way the coaches believe in me.
“I didn’t expect to be scoring goals, I just wanted to be the best for the team, to give my all, all my effort and I am happy to be getting goals for my effort.
“I am really enjoying myself. In 12 months, my career has really taken a drastic change. To experience football at this high level, it’s a joyful one for me. I am happy to be doing well for my country.
“We sacrifice so much. We know we had a tough patch, now we are reaping the rewards of our hard work. I am just really happy to be part of it and I am looking forward to the future.”
Ogbene’s latest contribution came in an initially tight encounter at the Stade de Luxembourg after Shane Duffy had opened the scoring 22 minutes from time with a close-range header.
He was perfectly placed to convert substitute Jason Knight’s clever back-heel to make it 2-0 before Calum Robinson wrapped up the win two minutes from time.
Victory edged the Republic into third place in the group behind Serbia and Portugal and ahead of Luxembourg, if only on goal difference.
That was no cause for celebration in the Irish camp, but a return of two wins and three draws after losing each of their first three qualifiers is indicative of the improvement Kenny and his players believe they have made despite the fact they will not be in Qatar next year.
Ogbene, who became the first African-born player to represent Ireland at senior level when he made his debut as a substitute in Hungary this summer, said: “I am really excited for what the future holds.
“I said a few months ago when we were having difficult times that good things will happen. It was only a matter of time for us to click.
“To come to Luxembourg, score three goals and most importantly concede zero goals, it doesn’t matter what team you are playing, it’s a good team performance.
“We have been scoring a lot of goals and keeping a lot of clean sheets, everyone is buying into the system, everyone believes in what we are doing.”
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