ALEXANDRIA – Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr says he is undecided who amongst Daniel Akpeyi and Ikechukwu Ezenwa will start in goal for Nigeria against the Syli Nationale of Guinea with Francis Uzoho now firmly third choice behind the duo.
Nigeria and Guinea play their second match in Group B at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations later today at the Alexandria Stadium with the Super Eagles who top the group after a 1-0 victory over Burundi in their first match, needing a victory to progress to the Round of 16.
Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Akpeyi was in goal for Nigeria’s opener – his first competitive appearance for the Super Eagles in about 20 months – and put in a mixed performance which Rohr both praised and criticized after the game. The Franco-German tactician however said that the South Africa-based goaltender was only chosen to start Nigeria’s last two friendlies and their tournament opener because he established himself as Nigeria’s number one in the absence of Ezenwa who had been primed for that position but lost his spot to a knee injury which he picked up in their Asaba training camp.
With Ezenwa, the only domestic league player in the squad, now back to full fitness, Rohr said the backroom staff “have a big decision to take which one will start the game” against Guinea today although Nigerians indicated that Akpeyi “has a good argument” to keep his place on the basis of his performance against The Swallows of Burundi.
“So, what happened is Akpeyi played the first match because in the three weeks of preparation he’s becoming the number one,” Rohr said ahead of today’s game.
“I don’t decide in this position alone because we have a good goalkeeper coach Alloy [Agu] and even my assistant Imama [Amakapabo] is a former goalkeeper so we can speak about this problem every day each time we see. Together we can speak about it and so we decided together that Akpeyi started as number one.
“Why? Because Ezenwa had a little injury in his knee in one of the first training sessions in Asaba so he had to rest and came back slowly and he lost the number one position because of this injury. And then Akpeyi played the friendlies, he did well and there was no reason to change.
“Now Ezenwa is coming back and there is a real competition because we agree actually that the number three is Francis Uzoho so for the game [against Guinea], we have a big decision to take which one will start the game but I think Daniel Akpeyi with a clean sheet in the first match and he keep us in the match with the ball he stopped from [Cedric] Amissi I think he still has good argument to maintain his number one shirt.”