By Jacob Ajom
After the withdrawal of Super Eagles first choice goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho from coach Gernot Rohr’s roster for the 2019 AFCON Qualifier between South Africa and Nigeria, the battle for Eagles number one shirt was narrowed between Daniel Akpeyi and Ikechukwu Ezenwa. Just as Rohr was confirming the withdrawal of Uzoho from the squad, the German announced the invitation of Enyimba goalkeeper, Theophilus Afelokhai as his replacement.
Rohr’s decision to invite Afelokhai was welcomed by numerous watchers of Nigerian football as the goalkeeper’s invitation has been long overdue. Afelokhai who is the first choice goalkeeper of Enyimba, put up some brilliant display as Enyimba reached the semi-final of this year’s CAF Confederation Cup and he did so while keeping Ikechukwu Ezenwa on the bench.
Now in the Super Eagles camp, the question is who will man the post against the Bafana Bafana today? Will Rohr hand the number one shirt to Ezenwa, who has all along been seen as second to Uzoho in the pecking order?
Feelers from Eagles camp have it that despite just receiving his first call-up under Gernot Rohr, Afelokhai could start in goal ahead of Ezenwa following his superb club form in the Confederation Cup run.
Could the pendulum swing in favour of Akpeyi who plies his trade in South Africa. Would Nigeria enjoy any advantage over Bafana Bafana if Akpeyi stands between the sticks?
With Akpeyi’s show of low confidence, it looks like a straight fight between Ezenwa and Afelokhai for who gets the nod against the Bafana Bafana.
But veteran Super Eagles goalkeeper and one time captain of the national team, Peter Rufai has poured cold water on the seeming intriguing situation. “While I would not venture into pointing out who should keep between the three, I must advice the technical crew that whoever is selected should be based on current form. The onus rests on coach Rohr and his technical crew. Selection must not be based on sentiments,” Rufai thundered.
He said whether Akpeyi is selected or kept on the bench, Nigeria can still benefit a lot from the former Rangers goalkeeper. “Whatever information Akpeyi has, he can pass it on to his teammates.
That will help the players and the team in general,” Rufai said, saying that with Akpeyi in the team, Nigeria stood a good chance of getting first hand information on the make up of the Bafana Bafana.”He is an asset.” The former Nigeria number one advised the Super Eagles to start the game with caution. “We stand a chance to win. The Eagles have the momentum as the coach and his players have understood each other better.
“I would prefer they begin with caution because if we show hunger from the beginning, the tendency to go for goals would expose our rear and make our defence vulnerable. We must be defensive in the early stages of the match.”