The Sparta Rotterdam stopper is could make his first start in the Super Eagles shirt
Former Nigeria international Victor Ezeji wants to see Maduka Okoye start in goal when the Super Eagles tackle Algeria in Friday’s international friendly in Austria.
The 21-year-old is among two other goalkeepers in the squad that were called up by coach Gernot Rohr, alongside Matthew Yakubu and Dele Alampasu. The latter has been called-up for the first time ever while the former has been a frequent face in the Nigeria squad for the past five years, but has only one cap to his name.
Okoye, on his part, has been getting regular called-ups since his first invitation in a friendly with Ukraine on September 2019. He also has one cap which came in a 1-1 draw with Brazil when he replaced Francis Uzoho in the 63rd minute.
Francis Uzoho is injured, likewise Daniel Akpeyi, and there is no sight of Ikechukwu Ezenwa.
This puts Rohr in a dilemma who to start in goal once again.
Okoye’s involvement in the national team has often been scrutinised owing to the fact hardly sees game time at club level. He never made a single appearance for the Fortuna Dusseldorf senior squad in three years, nor has he done so for his new club Sparta Rotterdam.
Ezeji, however, believes that is not a hindrance, with his consistent call-ups sufficient to give him a chance to show his true colours.
“For me I will go with Okoye because he has been on and off but now there is no Uzoho, there is no Ezenwa, there is no Akpeyi,” Ezeji told Goal. “So, I think it is time for Okoye to prove that he is worth being invited to the national team.
“It really doesn’t matter [that Okoye isn’t playing at club level], he trains with the team at least. Let’s just try to see Okoye do something new that we can say yes, he deserves to be in the national team, not just inviting him. He has been a regular face in the team and I think this is the time for him to man the post and show Nigerians that he is capable of keeping it.”
A player who is likely to start is Paul Onuachu.
The Genk forward was called up as a replacement for Napoli star Victor Osimhen, who was excluded due to some Partenopei players testing positive for coronavirus.
Onuachu isn’t a regular invitee and having netted seven goals in seven games for his Belgian this season, Ezeji thinks this is also a good opportunity for the lanky forward to seize the limelight.
“This is an opportunity for Onuachu to redeem his image since Osimhen is not coming. Onuachu is a big player I respect so much and I believe he can do better for himself if he really wants to be reckoned as one of the best strikers in the national team. So, this is a golden opportunity he has to take,” the former Enyimba player said.
Another area of interest in the team is the left-back position.
Since Elderson Echiejile was phased out of the team, Paderborn’s Jamilu Collins has been the regular face, however, he has not been convincing enough.
A new face in Zaidu Sanusi, who recently moved to Portuguese giants FC Porto from Santa Clara, is a new option for Rohr to try out and Ezeji welcomes his inclusion which will create healthy competition in that spot.
“Since Echiejile left, we’ve not gotten a full replacement at left-back and it’s better we have someone that can compete with Jamilu [Collins],” the 39-year-old said.
“It’s been mostly Jamilu since Echiejile left, but I think now that we have Zaidu, it will be a very good competition between two of them. Whoever proves himself right can take the spot, but I think it’s better there is a competition than when there is none.”