Dike's bright end to difficult year


If he goes to the World Cup with Nigeria it will be the culmination of a fairy-tale couple of years for Bright Dike.

There is so much competition for the strikers positions in the squad, but with a scoring start in the last match against Italy Dike will be hoping that the old adage that says possession is nine tenths of the law holds true.

Dike has his cousin Emmanuel Emenike, Brown Ideye and Shola Ameobi ahead of him in the pecking order, and the likes of Ikechukwu Uche, Joseph Akpala and Obinna Nsofor also vying for squad places.

That’s why Dike admits he has to improve if he is to stand any chance of making Nigeria's squad for the World Cup.

"I'll keep working hard because there's big competition for places in the squad," Dike told BBC Sport.

"The team is doing well and I've always been confident that my time will come.

"I've been extremely patient and working hard and I feel honoured to get another chance.

The goal against Italy was Dike's second in a Nigerian shirt. The 26-year-old scored in an unofficial friendly game against Catalonia in January. The goal against Italy occurred in the 35th minute during Dike's 65 minutes on the field.

The goal comes after the former Portland Timbers' forward was on the bench when Nigeria qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with a 4-1 aggregate-goal victory over Ethiopia in the final round of African qualifying during the past weekend.
 
"The goal [against Italy] is just testament to how hard I've been working and I'll work even harder to make sure I go to Brazil with them."

He was signed by the second division Timbers at the beginning of the 2010 season and he scored 10 goals. The production earned him the distinction of being one of first four players signed to a MLS contract with the Timbers when they became part of the league expansion.
 
Dike's career with the Timbers was plagued by injuries. He suffered a torn Achilles tendon in February 2011 and didn't return to the field until July before appearing in 11 MLS regular season games.

His most productive season occurred in 2012, when he scored five goals in 12 games, with all five goals coming in a 10-game span.

Dike entered the 2013 season with eyes on a starting position, but suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament during pre-season friendly in February.

After recovering, Dike was traded by Portland to Toronto for Maximiliano Urruti in September. He scored one goal in seven appearances (five starts) with Toronto.

Now he’s competing against established European-based players for a squad place, Dike has his work cut out.

With no scheduled competitive game for Toronto until March, selectors are hoping the Oklahoma native will start weighing up off-season loan possibilities in January.

"I will not be taking a break for longer than a few weeks I will train with a team in Europe which is still to be decided," Dike says.

Dike knows he has to stay active in the off-season and keep making progress to land a place in his country's squad for the 2014 World Cup.

"I'm not only competing with my cousin [Emenike]. There are other talented strikers and you can't give up but keep fighting," he said.

"I can't personally change the MLS schedule to suit myself, so all I can do is work hard like others and make a good impression.

"You have to compete at all levels and no matter if you are the last man or the first.

"Everybody is going to have to become better just so they play well in the World Cup, because the job is not done yet, it's just the beginning."

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