Two of Nigeria’s goalkeepers in camp ahead of the impending Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, Daniel Akpeyi and Emil Maduka Okoye have revealed the depths of their expectations ahead of their flight with the Super Eagles to Yaoundé on Wednesday, megasportsarena.com reports.
While Okoye took a cautious stand in weighing the Eagles’ chances, especially with Egypt posing an initial threat for them in Group D, Akpeyi opted for the upbeat mode, as the Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa first choice reckoned that the Nigerian team is star-studded.
Akpeyi went on to express profound belief in the ability of the Eagles’ outfield players, even as Okoye, who is on loan at Sparta Rotterdam of Netherlands, following a deal with Watford of England in November, charged the Nigerian defence line to hold Egypt’s Mohammed Salah.
The former Fortuna Dusseldorf of Germany shot-stopper, who trained for the first time with his international teammates on Monday, opined that all players in the Eagles mist be on their toes for 90 minutes in order to stop Salah from wreaking havoc when both countries face off in their AFCON 2021 opener.
Salah has been in sensational form so far this season, with 23 goals and nine assists from 26 games in all competitions, while the 29-year-old star also impressed on international duty with three assists for his teammates during the World Cup qualifiers.
Consequently, while the keeper admitted that his starting spot is no longer guaranteed in the Eagles, after the interim coach, Augustine Eguavoen said everyone is starting on a clean slate, with the race also involving Akpeyi, Francis Uzoho and John Noble for Nigeria’s first choice, Okoye stressed that the defenders will have to be fully focused for 90 minutes.
Okoye submitted: “I think we have the quality to stop players like this, not to give us too much danger. It is a new competition and it feels different; because nothing is safe, nothing is promised.
“So, we are back on fighting for the spot again, but one thing is for sure no matter who is going to play we’re going to do everything for the country and do our best.”
Similar words were uttered by the 35-year-old Akpeyi, whose last appearance for the Eagles was against Lesotho in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in November 2019, but he is now beaming with hope to return as first choice that he was for the last AFCON in Egypt.
The former Heartland of Owerri, Warri Wolves of Delta State and Chippa United of South Africa netminder was also full of praise to all players in the Eagles’ camp and for those competing with him for a spot in the starting 11, as he said they will all back anyone that gets the nod to start.
Akpeyi concluded: “It is a good development. Maduka has been doing so well and Uzoho is there as well and probably Noble is also there, and I believe in these goalkeepers.
“Most importantly whichever one the coach decides to play at the end of the day, every other person gets to support him.
“They have my support, they are like younger brothers to me, I am only going to support them if I don’t get my chance.
“If any one of them is playing, I’m going to support them one hundred percent. I think everyone is in top form at the moment.
“As usual, Nigerians always expect us to do well. I’m very sure that the players that have been invited into the camp they know what is obtainable and what we need to make Nigerians happy.
“I just hope that we keep the focus and the most important thing is to take one game at a time so the first focus is the first game which is against Egypt.”