Nigeria's Emmanuel Dennis in shock AFCON omission: Watford 'baring fangs' over striker's no-show

Nigeria striker Emmanuel Dennis has been excused from participating at the Africa Cup of Nations as his club side Watford are "baring fangs," according to a statement released by the country's FA.

A Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) statement said on Instagram: "In-form rapid raider Emmanuel Dennis, whose English Premiership club is baring fangs, has been excused to provide room for Czech Republic -based forward Peter Olayinka.".

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Watford boss Claudio Ranieri had said on Wednesday that the club received the email informing them of Dennis' call up "late" and that meant the decision was in the Premier League side's hands.

"The email arrived late," Ranieri said. "The national team has a time to send a pre-call. They didn't respect the days, and I want to see.

"They have a time when they need to send a precall; if they don't send it, we can choose."

Nigeria will also be without Napoli forward Victor Osimhen who was not named in Augustine Eguavoen's squad.

Later on Friday, Eguavoen said the exclusion was due to what he branded as threats by Watford aimed at Dennis.

"He said he tried his best and I know he tried his best," Eguavoen told ESPN. "We tried to reach out to the club, but they insisted they would not allow him to go and Dennis also told me that the club are doing everything possible for him not to be at the AFCON.

"That is why we had to wait until the last second to push the button. Dennis said he wanted to come, but his club were threatening him, so what do we do? If a player doesn't want to come, we have to play with what we have."

Osimhen suffered a series of facial injuries following a clash of heads with Inter Milan's Milan Skriniar the initial prognosis was a three-month absence.

He was in contention for the side when he contracted COVID-19. Though the 23-year-old is asymptomatic, according to a Napoli statement, he will have to isolate in Nigeria which means he cannot travel back to Italy for further checks on his fractured cheekbone.

"Consequently, the local authorities have ordered that Osimhen self-isolate and the check-up will be rescheduled after he has tested negative and his period of isolation ends," a Nigeria statement read.

Osimhen is one of a number of players to have tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the start of the tournament on Jan. 9.

Nigeria open their AFCON campaign against Egypt in Garoua on Jan. 11.

ESPN reporter Colin Udoh contributed to this story.