The FIFA International break is here again, so players from their respective countries are jeering up for friendly matches and also tuning up for the world cup which is like some 80 something days away. The super eagles team of Nigeria is also not left out of the action as they are due to play Poland on the 23rd of March at the Wraclow stadium in Poland, 8:45 pm local time and Serbia on Tuesday at the Barnet stadium in England.
The list of the players invited for the two friendlies has been out for weeks now and Nigerian soccer loving fans has been raving on the various players who made the list and the ones who should have made it and probably some who probably shouldn’t have been on the list, a few opinions here and there like; the inclusion of Elderson Echejile while the “non -calling” of Obafemi Martins(who seems to have been enjoying a good form this season) for the likes of home based striker Okechukwu Gabriel might have been causing a little stir in the Nigerian soccer debating circles. The one that is topping the list is the goalkeeping department.
The fact that the goal keepers who looks likely to represent the country at the mundial has no experience at such a top level tournament brings concern, but maybe that’s just a cover up for the real concern, maybe the real concern is the likeliest to be the no 1 goalkeeper for the super eagles might just not be good enough. I might sound harsh for saying that after he (ikechukwu Ezenwa) took the no1 gloves when Carl Ikeme was diagnosed with leukemia.
Credit to him he did his best in between the sticks, making some valuable saves and yet contributing his own quota into a gradually-stable defense as the qualifiers came thick and fast but many Nigerians still feel he shouldn’t be the first choice goal keeper simply because he seems not to be reassuring, he’s lack of exposure is mostly evident in his composure, be it responding appropriately to corner-kicks or commanding his backline, many feel he just doesn’t have the clout to wear the no 1 shirt.
While people always like to refer to Peter Rufai’s exploit at USA 94 and Vincent Enyeama superb cameo in the last game of the super eagles in Korea/ Japan 2002..both examples were a situation of fielding in a goal keeper with commanding presence, experience, talent and clout, the latter was a case of giving a chance to a talented goal keeper who took his chance and became arguably the most consistent goal keeper in Nigeria’s history.
Note that I didn’t give much reference to the other two goal keepers who were called up for the friendlies; Francis Uzoho who plays for Deportivo la coruna B side in Spain and Daniel Akpeyi who plays for Chippa United, South Africa. The former(Francis Uzoho) has been gaining more positive feedbacks from fans, some even feel his 45 minutes cameo against Argentina in the last friendly match was better and more reassuring than every minute Ikechukwu Ezenwa has kept from the qualifiers up to date. While Daniel Akpeyis howler against the same team (Argentina) did not help his ratings, the uncertainty or lack of assurance in the goal keeping department has refused to go away.
So now we have the “oyinbo wall” of Leon Balogun and William Ekong looking preferable at the back, the triangle of John Obi Mikel, Wilfred Ndidi and Ogenyi Onazi as the engine room of the team and the likelihood of Odion Ighalo spear heading the attack.
THE QUESTION NOW IS WHO SHOULD BE THE NUMBER ONE CHOICE FOR THE GOAL KEEPING POSITION?
This post was written by Seun Yusuf Balogun