Chiedozie Ogbene will attempt to take another step on his remarkable football journey when he goes head-to-head with France superstar Kylian Mbappe.
The Paris St Germain striker will arrive in Dublin for Monday night’s Euro 2024 qualifier having added two goals to the three he scored in a losing cause in December’s World Cup final as Didier Deschamps’ men demolished a depleted Netherlands 4-0 on Friday.
Rotherham counterpart Ogbene, who was playing his club football in League One this time last year, will hope to line up against Mbappe and his illustrious team-mates in perhaps the biggest game of his international career since he became the first African-born player to represent Ireland in June 2021.
The 25-year-old said: “Honestly, it is unbelievable. Football is unpredictable, you have to take every day as it comes. When I come out here I try my best and I live in the moment. Last year we were in League One…
“I am very ambitious. You just have to live in the moment and enjoy it as it comes, as it comes very quick. By the time you realise it, you’ll be retiring anytime soon.
“It has been an unbelievable journey and I hope I can continue on this platform and push for higher heights.”
Ogbene has introduced pace and an eye for goal to Stephen Kenny’s team and has found the back of the net on four occasions in his 14 appearances to date, the latest of them the winner in Wednesday night’s 3-2 friendly victory over Latvia.
He has done so with a smile on his face, but also a belief that even the biggest obstacles – and the World Cup runners-up in the first fixture in a qualifying campaign is sizeable – can be overcome.
He said: “There are some butterflies and nerves there, but that’s a good sign obviously. I care about the game and I really want us to win this game. The dream is to get to Germany, that’s what is at stake.”
A positive result against the French would represent a significant boost to Ireland’s hopes at the start of a difficult group, but to do that, they will need to find a way, among other challenges, of handling Mbappe’s electric pace.
Asked who would win a foot-race between himself and the France skipper, Ogbene said with a smile: “I’m a big fan of Kylian Mbappe, so I’d give it to him. But on Monday we’ll just have to wait and see.
“If you look at the best players in the world, they are very powerful and electric. Even when we played Portugal in the Aviva, [Cristiano] Ronaldo at 36 years of age, you could see how explosive he was and how much trouble he can cause.”
Ogbene will hope his pace causes France just as many problems, and asked if a fifth Ireland goal might arrive on Monday, the former Cork and Limerick man said: “I hope so. I hope not just five, maybe six.”
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