Dele Ajiboye’s inspiring performance at the 2018 African Nations Championship in Morocco could be a threat to Daniel Akpeyi’s place in the Nigeria’s squad for Russia 2018 World cup our correspondent has learnt.
Ajiboye made some heroics saves to help the Super Eagles reach the CHAN final after Ikechukwu Ezenwa the first choiced goalkeeper who was injured in the 13th minute of the semifinal against Sudan was replaced. The Eagles were hammered 4-0 in the February 4 final by tournament hosts Atlas Lions at Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca.
It was learnt that Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr is overwhemed with the Plateau United custodian’s showing in Morocco and is considering him for a place in his 23-man squad for Russia 2018 – at the expense of Chippa United’s first choice Akpeyi. Sources claim Rohr believes the former Warri Wolves star is not one that boosts confidence.
It was learnt that Rohr decided to put a big question mark on the fate of the 31-year-old South Africa-based keeper after he committed a schoolboy error in the shock 4-2 defeat of South American powerhouse Argentina in a friendly affair in Krasnodar, Russia on November 14.
The former Nasarawa United star, who has conceded 11 goals in 15 appearances for Chippa United in the South African Premier Soccer League this term, had posted an underwhelming performance in the 2-0 defeat by South Africa in their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Uyo on June 10.
With first choice keeper Carl Ikeme firmly out of the World Cup as he is undergoing treatment for acute leukaemia after being diagnosed with the illness in July, Rohr renewed his interest in veteran keeper Vincent Enyeama as he was allegedly not convinced that neither Enyimba shot-stopper Ezenwa nor Akpeyi was good enough to start for the Super Eagles at Russia 2018.
However, after Rohr failed to persuade former Nigeria captain Enyeama, who is said be under pressure from some of his friends and family members to steer clear of the national team, to end his international retirement, the former Niger coach is said to be considering young Deportivo La Coruna keeper Francis Uzoho as his first choice with Ezenwa and Akpeyi the other options.
Uzoho wormedhis way into Rohr’s heart after his encouraging performance after replacing Akpeyi against Argentina. With South Korea 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup winner Ajiboye’s resurrection, Rohr is said be seriously considering his options against with Akpeyi allegedly not featuring prominently in his World Cup plans.
“Akpeyi and Enyeama are still in contention for World Cup places if they are in good health, fitness and good form. But Ezenwa and Dele have been good, and if they continue to improve, we will love that because World Cup is a big stage,” Rohr was quoted as saying recently.
Sources close to the team says the former Burkina Faso manager may not invite more outfield players to the Eagles unless any of the European-born players he is eyeing decide pledge their international allegiance to Nigeria.
Spokesman for the Nigeria Football Federation Ademola Olajire declined to comment on the national team when our correspondent sought his reactions.