Former Super Eagles goalkeepers Joe Erico and Ike Shorunmu have backed Eagles coach Gernot Rohr over his statement that Chippa United goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi has a chance of making the Russia 2018 Wrold Cup squad.
Rohr during the week said Akpeyi has a chance to claim one of the three goalkeepering slots to Russia 2018 despite putting up below par performances for the national team.
The former Warri Wolves goalkeeper was widely blamed for the two goals he conceded in the 2-0 loss against South Africa in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Uyo last year.
He was also criticised for his outing against Argentina in a friendly match in Kranodar, Russia in November.
But the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist has been included in the 28-man list released by Rohr for the friendly matches against Poland in Wroclaw on March 23 and Serbia in London on March 27 at the expense of Plateau United first choice Dele Ajiboye, who put up a fine performance at the 2018 African Nations Championship in Morocco in February.
Having kept seven clean-sheets in 16 appearances for Chippa United in the ABSA Premiership this season, Rohr believes Akpeyi has a chance to make the World Cup team.
“Akpeyi was a bit unfortunate in our only defeat against South Africa. But he is working hard, he is fighting and he has a chance to be part of our World Cup squad,” he was quoted as saying by allnigeriasoccer.com during the week.
Ethiopia 1976 AFCON bronze medallist Erico told our correspondent that Akpeyi has more time to improve before the World Cup, adding that more matches would help him attain the required confidence and composure.
“The team currently has three goalkeepers, who I believe have the opportunity to prove themselves before the World Cup begins. What we should be talking about now is who among the three should be the regular first-choice before the Eagles’ first match at the World Cup,” he said.
“Akpeyi has faced a lot of criticism from Nigerians due to his mistakes but the coach is right to stick with him and call him for the friendly matches. Ikechukwu Ezenwa has also done enough to merit a stay on the team to the World Cup.
“Both Akpeyi and Ezenwa were in goal when it became evident that Carl Ikeme would not make the team again due to his illness. The other keeper invited during the qualifiers (Dele Alampasu) is not active in his club, which gave the room for Francis Uzoho to come in.
“Akpeyi only needs to get himself together psychologically and he will do well for the Eagles and become Nigerians’ darling again. If he can keep seven clean sheets for his club in 16 matches, then he is not a bad goalkeeper. The coaches only need to work on what is affecting him anytime he comes to the Eagles. I believe that he is good enough to make the World Cup team.”
Former Shooting Stars goalkeeper Shorunmu, who represented Nigeria at the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan, said Akpeyi could make the World Cup squad if the coach finds him good enough.
He said, “It is good for a coach to have confidence in his players. Rohr is confident that Akpeyi can do the job in Russia, so he is good enough for the team. Every goalkeeper has his good and bad days.
“Even the best keepers in the world do have days that they fail to do everything right in goal. So, that Akpeyi makes errors in goal doesn’t mean he’s totally a bad goalkeeper. His coach (Rohr) has come out to say the keeper can improve before the World Cup and that should show that he has confidence in him, which is good for the psyche of the keeper.”
However, Shorunmu believes that Ajiboye could still make the World Cup squad. He said the 2007 U-17 World Cup winner only needs to be consistent in form and could be considered by Rohr ahead of the trip to Russia.
He said, “The World Cup is less than 100 days away and the Eagles still have four more friendlies to play. Anything can happen before the World Cup but we only pray for good things so that our players can give their best in Russia.
“Ajiboye still has a chance to make the team but he needs not be discouraged that he was left out of the first two friendlies. He should focus on his form and ensure he is consistent at his club and the coach can bring him in when the time calls for it.”
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