Çaykur Rizespor of Turkey defender, Chidozie Awaziem has received a long line of high ratings from pundits, following his spirited efforts with the Super Eagles at the Africa Cup of Nations, where he has played as a right-back in all off the team’s matches, megasportsarena.com reports.
The 22-year-old Awaziem only got his AFCON breakthrough and a rare opportunity to shine due to an injury copped by Bursaspor of Turkey defender, Shehu Abdullahi after just 20 minutes in the Eagles’ very first match against Burundi, but the lad on loan from FC Porto of Portugal has gone on to shore in great statistics in tackles, marking, passing and time.
Despite always been known as a central defender, the soft-spoken lad, who has been loaned to three different clubs by Porto, has out behind him all initial doubts about his ability, as seen in the opening AFCON 2019 qualifiers’ 2-0 loss at home against South Africa.
In that match, Awaziem was culpable in both goals, then went on to add to his blight with another howler in a friendly against Argentina, but all that is now behind him, and a keen observer took to social media to celebrate the defender’s individual figures in all of his key duty posts.
Writing under the verified handle, Joe Crann @YesWeCrann, the post read: “Nigeria’s Chidozie Awaziem is bossing #AFCON2019…
“He’s not been dribbled past even once at the tournament, completing 13 tackles from 13 attempts. 100%.
“He’s also made seven clearances, four blocks and lost just two aerial battles in his (first) five games. Wall.”
It is noteworthy that the six games Awaziem has played at AFCON 2019 have pushed his number of caps to 12, with tell tale marks in his trail, such that technical assessors of Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) have joined pundits in rating the lad high as well.
A report by CAF’s official website also noted that Awaziem has made the best of an unexpected chance to step in as a right back, as Eagles’ coach, Gernot Rohr sent him on to hold forte for Abdullahi, only for him to cement his place and retain the spot even after the original defender for the role recovered fully from his opening match knock.
Awaziem continued in the role, without putting any foot wrong, playing in every game as Nigeria weaved through to the semi-finals, with an assist to boot against Guinea, and the vastly-improved make-shift right-back says he feels comfortable playing in the role.
Incidentally, Awaziem was just 16 years when Nigeria last won the title and, despite only playing in his first AFCON during a loan spell in Turkey, Rohr took his mind back to the youngster’s days at FC Nantes of France in the previous season, to feel confident to rely on the hairy-faced lad.
His first involvement with the Super Eagles was in 2016 when he was called up for friendly games against Mali and Luxembourg at the age of 19. He made his debut on June 1, 2017 in a 3-0 friendly win over Togo.
Although Awaziem was part of Nigeria’s 23-man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, he was an unused substitute, but that scorecard has completely taken a dramatic turnaround to an ever-present status for him at AFCON 2019.
He is now hoping that his performances in Egypt will help him earn more caps, represent Nigeria more, and get a role of relevance in Porto’s main team, thereby putting an end to the constant line of loans he has faced.
Awaziem stated in an interview with Cafonline.com: “I don’t think it has been hard for me because, as a player, you have to be ready when called upon.
“I was happy to get some playing time. I am here to serve the nation and in whichever capacity or position the coach wants me to be in, I am ready.”