Nigeria will line up a new goalkeeper against Algeria when they lock horns in a Match Day Two 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifier at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo on November 12.
After Carl Ikeme withdrew from the team due to injury, the onus fell on Eagles gaffer Gernot Rohr to find a replacement for the Wolves man.
He decided to go with Chippa United’s Daniel Akpeyi to fight for a starting berth with youngster Dele Alampasu and FC IfeanyiUbah’s Ikechukwu Ezenwa. Akpeyi and Ezenwa are veterans of sorts and have been involved with the national set-up for some time while Alampasu is still looking for his first full international cap.
Rohr will have his work cut out to pick who will man the sticks against the Desert Foxes and establish himself as the de-factor second choice given, by now, Carl Ikeme is the undisputed starter for the Super Eagles.
Since making his début against Tanzania in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, Ikeme has captured the respect of Nigerians who have taken to the 30-year-old and he has been quite impressive in goal for Nigeria.
Replacing him will be a herculean task for the coaching crew as there are clouds over the three goalkeepers in camp for the game.
Ikechukwu Ezenwa who is odds on favourite to start will be match rusty by game time. He has not played competitive football for nearly three weeks after the conclusion of the Nigeria Professional Football League, a reason, given by Rohr, for not inviting outfield home based players.
Ezenwa has been around for a pretty long time and comes with bags of international experience. He was part of the 2007 Flying Eagles squad to the Fifa U20 World Cup alongside the likes of Brown Ideye, Efe Ambrose and Elderson Echiejile.
He was also the starter for the NPFL All Stars team at the 2016 La Liga Tour which involved Malaga, CD Cadiz and Atletico Madrid. The 30-year-old was impressive and is now reportedly on the radar of some club sides in Spain’s lower division.
Even though FC Ifeanyi Ubah won the Federation Cup over the weekend, Ezenwa wasn’t in goal because he was cup-tied.
Match rustiness will be a factor, and with a crucial game against Algeria on the horizon, it will be a monumental shift for Ezenwa to stand tall and be counted. Might not be impossible, but the odds don’t favour the former Sunshine Stars goalkeeper.
Daniel Akpeyi has also been around the block but has never really established himself either as a first choice or second choice goalkeeper way before Vincent Enyeama left the scene. Though used sporadically during Stephen Keshi’s reign, he’s been average at best and cannot be said to be on the same level with Carl Ikeme at the moment.
His move to South African Premier League side Chippa United has improved his game a lot but like Ezenwa, he hasn’t done enough to assure Nigerians of his capabilities and it will be a herculean task for him to turn the fans to his corner.
The former Warri Wolves man is undoubtedly a talented goalkeeper but like a certain class of players, he has not translated that into the international stage. Rohr will run the rule on him during training and if he likes what sees then Akpeyi will have another chance to prove his doubters wrong.
Dele Alampasu has come a long way from playing street football and municipal tournaments in three years to fighting for starters shirt in the Super Eagles. He came to national prominence during the 2013 Fifa U17 World Cup where he shone like a million stars.
Alampasu started the tournament on a rough patch but gradually got his confidence back and helped Nigeria win the U17 for a fourth time earning the goalkeeper of the tournament honours.
That gong opened doors for him in Europe where he teamed up with CD Feirense in 2015 but lack of game time saw him move two steps down to the Portuguese third division with FC Cesarense.
Stepping down a level has done him a lot of good as he has played three games for his team and seems to have gotten his reflexes and sharpness back as he demonstrated during the Super Eagles training sessions in Abuja before moving to Uyo, venue of the game.
Rohr will have his work cut out in selecting who mans the sticks against Algeria. Will he go for Ezenwa who has been the second choice goalkeeper of late or Daniel Akpeyi whom a lot are tipping to be the man to do the job.
Those two seem to be the logical choice but Rohr might just throw all permutations to the dustbin and go the Cameroon way ( they picked youngster Fabrice Ondoa as the first choice ahead of their older goalkeepers) and pick the 19-year-old Alampasu to keep goal for Nigeria.
The German surely has a lot up his sleeves as he showed against Zambia in Ndola. The game against Algeria in Uyo might just be another with surprises in the offing.