By James Agberebi: Nigeria defender Ola Aina has stated that he cannot wait for the commencement of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Aina featured for England at junior levels before switching his allegiance to Nigeria.
The Hull City defender made his competitive debut for the Super Eagles in their 1-0 win against Zambia in the 2018 World Cup qualifier in Uyo last year, replacing Elderson Echiejile.
He went on to make two more appearances for Nigeria against Algeria (2018 World Cup qualifier) and Argentina (friendly).
The 21-year-old in an interview with the official website of his parent club Chelsea spoke about his experience in the Championship, his goal in the FA Cup against Blackburn and John Terry’s influence in his career.
“That was another proud moment for me,” Aina said about playing for Nigeria. “It’s been going really well so far. My full debut was away to Algeria. We had already qualified for the World Cup so I wasn’t really nervous, but it was good to get out there and play.
“The fans are so passionate and it’s a big honour to represent them. The country is football mad and you feel that just putting on the shirt. We have some quality players in our team, including Victor (Moses), and I am looking forward to what is in store for us.”
On playing in the Championship with Hull City and playing in different positions, Aima said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far. It’s been harder than I expected – I was always told by other players who have played in the Championship that I would be able to cope with it, but coming here and actually doing it are two different things.
“Every team is very hard-working, the pace of the game is very quick and teams press all the time. It’s physical, too. It’s all I need to get used to playing senior football regularly. I’m just enjoying my football right now, I’m relishing the opportunity and it is serving me well.
“At the beginning of the season I was playing right-back, obviously a position I am used to. In the second half of the season I have been playing predominantly at left-back. I have probably enjoyed it there a bit more funnily enough, because I can drive on the inside or go down the outside and create more chances.”
On Hull’s improved defensive display and on areas he wishes to improve in his game, Aina added: “At the beginning of the season we were scoring a lot of goals but conceding a lot at the back, and in the second half of the season we have been tight at the back but struggling to get goals at the other end. It’s been strange, but we just have to build on the clean sheets we have got recently and try and win more games.”
“I have been working on keeping concentrated throughout the whole game. Sometimes in the past I have had lapses where maybe I have switched off for a second and then danger happens. For the majority of this season that’s what I have been working on and it’s really got better. I’m happy because I can see it improving game by game.”
And commenting on his goal against Blackburn in the FA Cup, former Chelsea captain JohnTerry’s influence and monitoring Chelsea’s progress so far this season, Aina said: “It was a proud moment scoring my first senior goal. The game was at deadlock, both teams were defending well. The ball came in from a corner, I went up for it and it just landed on my head and went in. It was the only goal of the game so I put the team through to the next round, and that made it an even nicer feeling for me.
” I am a Chelsea supporter through and through. I watch all the games and if I have to miss them, I catch them on Match of the Day. I’m keeping up with everything.
“It was a good day. JT (John Terry) came over to me before the game, gave me a hug, congratulated me on my move and told me to enjoy the season and play well. He has always given me confidence and it was good to see him.
“Playing against JT (now at Aston Villa) was a bit surreal, because whenever I had seen him on the other side of the pitch it was in a training game! Seeing him in different colours and not on the same team as me was weird, but it was good to challenge myself up against him. There was even one time I was marking him in the box at a corner. I enjoyed it.”