Super Eagles first choice goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme, has been confirmed to miss the forthcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Algeria.
The Wolverhampton shot-stopper was sidelined from the crucial tie with the North Africans due to a sore hip injury suffered in the English Championship away to Blackburn Rovers.
In his place, coach Gernot Rohr has handed a recall to South Africa based Daniel Akpeyi, who was a key member of the Dream Team VI that clinched bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.
Aside Akpeyi, FC IfeanyiUbah man, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, and former youth international, Dele Alampasu, are the other two goalies ready to step in for the 30-year-old.
“Ikeme’s injury is really a sad news to me personally and the entire technical crew. It shouldn’t have been this time when we have a crucial World Cup qualifier,” said Super Eagles goalkeeper trainer, Aloy Agu.
Just like Agu, many Nigerians are still in doubt as to the capabilities of the trio who apparently are unproven in the national team.
Here are four reasons why Ikeme will be missed.
- His unrivalled confidence
Sometimes defence is the best form of attack and the expertise of a goalkeeper determines who wins a game. Ikeme has gone about this with aplomb – evident in the game against Zambia. The other three goalkeepers might find it difficult to step into his shoes considering the severity of the encounter.
“It is quite unfortunate that Ikeme will not be available for the match due to injury because we all saw his performance against Zambia and that has brought some level of confidence to the team,” ex-international, Ike Shorunmu, confessed.
Since making his debut for Nigeria against Tanzania in November 2015, Ikeme has remained ever present in the team. The former Leicester City goalie has only conceded thrice for his country including twice against Egypt in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. For his club, he has also been outstanding with 10 clean sheets last term and three thus far before his injury.
- Experience and exposure
When compared to the other three goalkeepers, Ikeme boasts superior experience and exposure. He has played over 13 years in the highest level in England for teams like Wolves, Leicester, Queens Park Rangers and Middlesbrough. This season alone, the 6 ft 3 goalkeeper has featured 16 times in the Championships. Ezenwa on the other hand has spent his entire club career in Nigeria. While Akpeyi and Alampasu aren’t exposed to the highest level of competition playing in the South African and Portuguese leagues respectively.
- Cohesion with team
One of Rohr’s principal principles since taking charge is that of team bonding. No wonder the Franco-German has stuck to Ikeme in his first two games in charge. The goalie is gradually developing an affinity with first choice centre-back pairing of William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun. This might be a little bit difficult for the other three lads who are yet to feature in a competitive match for the three-time African champions.