More facts have emerged on why TSG Hoffenheim of Germany defender, Kevin Akpoguma started Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sierra Leone, despite the presence of ostensibly better exposed duo of Tyronne Ebuehi and Ola Aina, megasportsarena.com reports.
Nigerian soccer fans were left stunned seeing Akpoguma get his competitive debut for the Eagles on an evening everyone felt either Ebuehi or Aina, who have been tested with the Nigerian team at the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations were relegated to the bench for all 90 minutes at Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City.
Akpoguma eventually appeared to struggle during the game, which ended in a surprise 4-4 draw, with many critics also blaming the Germany-born stopper-cum-full-back for being part of the weaknesses Nigeria’s defence had in the second half.
However, Eagles’ coach, Gernot Rohr insists he was satisfied with Akpoguma’s game, even as the Franco-German gaffer disclosed that it was more of physical attributes that technique and tactical acumen that earned the former Germany under-20 national team captain the nod.
Rohr went on to affirm that it is because Akpoguma is taller than both Ebuehi and Aina that gave the TSG lad the edge for Friday’s game, as the coach reckoned that he would use height advantage to outmuscle the Sierra Leoneans.
Rather than bow to popular belief that picking the Hoffenheim lad in the starting 11 was an error of judgment, the gaffer affirmed that Akpoguma’s aerial prowess and physicality were the main reasons he was picked ahead of Aina and Ebuehi at right-back for the Eagles’ game in Benin City.
Although Rohr admitted that Akpoguma normally plays as a central defender at Hoffenheim, he pointed out that the soft-spoken Mulatto also often features as a right-back for ‘The Village Club,’ where he has excelled in recent seasons and was even approached to star for Germany’s senior national team.
In contrast with the popular verdict of Nigerians fans and analysts that Akpoguma was a huge missing link in the Eagles’ defence on Friday, Rohr parried the verdict but concluded that his new protégé acquitted himself well against The Leone Stars.
Rohr posited: “He is good in the air and against the tall strikers of Sierra Leone, who like the long balls, he is much better than Ola Aina or Tyronne. He was one of our best defenders, I am very happy with his performance.”