The intriguing subplot of the identification of Nigeria’s first-choice goalkeeper on the World Cup might be resolved in the course of the Tremendous Eagles’ upcoming friendlies, with coach Gernot Rohr certainly determined for no extra undesirable headlines.
After having boasted one among Africa’s best stoppers—in Vincent Enyeama—for over a decade, a earlier space of power has develop into an issue place for the West Africans following The Cat’s retirement from the worldwide enviornment.
Carl Ikeme was launched as his alternative, however the Wolverhampton Wanderers keeper’s leukaemia prognosis denied him the chance to progress within the position.
It plunged Nigeria into uncertainty halfway by their World Cup qualifying marketing campaign, and whereas Ikeme’s alternative Ikechukwu Ezenwa impressed within the Four-Zero victory over Cameroon in Uyo, his displaying within the 1-1 draw within the return match prompted hypothesis that he wouldn’t be up for the job.
Nigeria’s beginning goalkeeper for his or her opening World Cup fixture in opposition to Croatia needs to be…
— Ed Dove (@EddyDove) March 21, 2018
Ezenwa’s small stature and the stigma connected to Africa-based stoppers counted in opposition to the Enyimba man, and Rohr’s determination to evaluate each Daniel Akpeyi and wonderkid Francis Uzoho within the pleasant victory over Argentina was proof that he isn’t but absolutely satisfied by the keeper.
Nevertheless, regardless of sending goalkeeper coach Enrico Pionetti to Spain to work with Deportivo La Coruna’s Uzoho, the proof of Rohr’s newest squad choice means that he’s assured in Ezenwa.
The rationale for that is the choice to miss Dele Ajiboye, who stepped in on the African Nations Championship to supply a heroic show in opposition to Sudan after Ezenwa picked up an harm.
With solely a handful of friendlies to go till Nigeria kick off their World Cup marketing campaign in opposition to Croatia in Kaliningrad, it’s crucial that spotlight turns to not the identification of the goalkeeper, however to the connection between the stopper and his backline.
It’s not the time for Rohr to cut and alter, to evaluate and look at, he must make a choose and permit that understanding to develop.
Had he turned to Ajiboye—who some parts of the Nigerian media nonetheless consider will get his alternative in the course of the June friendlies—it might have added one other component of doubt to an already unsure zone.
The smart cash is on Rohr beginning Ezenwa in opposition to Poland on Friday and, barring a calamitous show, sticking with the stopper from thereon out.
The Enyimba man could have ample alternative to show his aptitude in opposition to Robert Lewandowski, one among Europe’s best marksmen, in what is perhaps the sternest take a look at of his profession.
If he passes it, and demonstrates an enhancing relationship with centre-backs William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun, then the keeper will likely be in pole place to begin in Russia, with solely harm wish to deny him a spot within the first XI.
Cease deceiving urself… Akpeyi is miles forward of Ezenwa by way of high quality. Ezenwa has nothing in him proper from Canada 2007 when Chile opened him up like toasted bread
— Albert Jr. Akpobowei (@Tamarau_kuro) November 11, 2017
At this late stage, it’s certainly too late for Rohr to waste enjoying minutes on Akpeyi.
The goalkeeper was uncovered—making a schoolboy error—within the match in opposition to Argentina, and his inclusion could be each an unpopular one with followers and an illogical gamble for Rohr to take.
The one unpredictable component is Uzoho.
The younger keeper lacks expertise—he’s performed simply 180 minutes of prime flight soccer and 45 minutes as a Nigeria worldwide—and his latest type with Deportivo’s second aspect has been muddled.
It’s removed from the perfect preparation for the grandest present on earth, and it’s certainly too quickly to anticipate Uzoho to develop a relationship with Nigeria’s backline.
Transferring ahead, whereas Uzoho could seem primed to be Nigeria’s long-term primary, these are nonetheless early days for the 19-year-old, and a confidence-shattering howler on the World Cup is perhaps too sharp a take a look at for a participant of his slender years.
Ezenwa, regardless of his unconvincing displaying for Enyimba in midweek, stays the one logical alternative for Rohr in an Ajiboye-free squad, and barring calamity, he ought to cement his standing as primary over the subsequent seven days.
Discovering a convincing resolution—or at the very least an answer that’s as convincing as attainable—to this conundrum would be sure that Nigeria method the World Cup in a stronger state and with their tails up.
It could additionally permit Rohr to focus his attentions on a number of the different areas of the squad that want work.
Barring harm or a notable run of spectacular type, the central defensive duo and midfield three look like established, whereas the beginning full-backs will possible be three of Ola Aina, Abdullahi Shehu and Elderson Echiejile.
In assault, Victor Moses, Moses Simon and Alex Iwobi will compete for 2 of the beginning spots, though the opposite forwards within the present squad know that they need to use this worldwide window to persuade Rohr both that they belong within the first XI or within the squad.
Falling into the previous class is Kelechi Iheanacho, who may even see Odion Ighalo’s return to goalscoring type in China as a loss of life knell to his hopes of taking to the sector from the off in opposition to Croatia.
Within the latter class, Ahmed Musa should make use of any afforded gametime to repay the coach’s religion, as his home type reveals no signal of enhancing after a January mortgage transfer to CSKA Moscow.
And what of Gabriel Okechukwu?
The match-winner for Akwa United within the Aiteo Cup, and Nigeria’s hero on the CHAN, will he get the chance to capitalise on Junior Ajayi’s harm and Anthony Nwakaeme’s struggles to say himself as Rohr’s Plan B off the bench?