Nigeria faced Benin Republic in Uyo and Lesotho away from home, on Wednesday and Sunday respectively in the first games of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, there was one name many Nigerians would have loved not to see on the 21-man list and on the pitch of play, it’s none other than Daniel Akpeyi.
Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi who has made the National team for the first time since the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, is an inevitable inclusion due to the injury sustained by Francis Uzoho in the friendly against Brazil in October with his return is still far from close.
Akpeyi was introduced to Nigerian football fans, not for the first time as he was a U20 national team player in 2005, but shot into the consciousness of Nigerian Football fans in the dismal of a 2-0 loss to South Africa in Uyo, June 2017, while there was little he could do to the goals he conceded, he didn’t display confidence
The situation was the same five months later in a pre-world cup friendly against Argentina, the next he featured in a Nigerian game as he was replaced by Ikechukwu Ezenwa who became Nigeria’s No 1 goalkeeper after the South Africa loss which was Nigeria’s first loss to the Bafana Bafana in a Competitive game.
Nigeria beat the South Americans 4-2, the 2 goals conceded in the first half when Akpeyi was in between the sticks, both goals scored due to his poor positioning and response. Uzoho replaced him in the second half and the youngster secured his World Cup shirt and of course the number shirt.
Ever since Nigerian fans have detested seeing the Kaizers Chief shot-stopper in goal with many preferring Ikechukwu Ezenwa who was also an eccentric individual but with better confidence and more experienced than Uzoho.
However, the baffling scenario was the fact that the man that was instrumental in Nigeria’s first competitive loss to South Africa [which even more satisfying for the South Africans, happened here in Nigeria] was more heralded and loved in South Africa not because he was in goal in that historic result.
Actually, it was because he posted incredible performances in the Premier Soccer League in South Africa where he first played for Chippa United before he was snapped up by one of the biggest teams in the PSL, Kaizers Chiefs.
Week in week out, Akpeyi showed brilliance, ability, confidence and every other quality needed in a top-class Goalkeeper in the PSL, he made Nigerians wonder if it was a clone who comes to the Super Eagles where all these qualities disappear and make you wonder how he became a professional Goalkeeper in the first place.
Subsequently, he made the team to the AFCON in Egypt and became the number one Goalkeeper for the Super Eagles, in the very first game against Burundi although the records may show he had a clean sheet, the records won’t show how his jittery nature almost made him make a mess of back pass and turn it into an own goal or how he looked like a time bomb waiting to explode.
Through the group stage he failed to concede although he sat out the third game, the knockout stage was not pretty as he conceded two against Cameroon and also gifted South Africa a late equalizer with his poor positioning for a free-kick which allowed the opponents score in an empty net.
While he was lucky as Ekong scored the winning goal with just seconds left of the game, the semi-final against Algeria was where the final straw broke the camel’s back. Ekong had scored an own goal, Ighalo had equalized but as Nigeria held hopes of extra time, the Super Eagles conceded a free kick by the edge of the box.
Akpeyi arranged the wall, Onyekuru secured the base of the wall with his back, Mahrez noticed Akpeyi’s position right behind the wall, he chose the far corner just inches away from side Akpeyi should have protected by standing close.
Alas, He was beaten at his near post by a spectacular free-kick albeit he could have saved with a better position and dive, Algeria won the game and Nigerians and indeed Gernot Rhor had enough.
He was dropped from the third-place match against Tunisia and Nigeria’s subsequent matches. The last of him, Nigerians thought they had seen after Maduka Okoye took his place in the friendlies against Ukraine and Brazil in September and October respectively.
Surprisingly, Akpeyi started to show brilliant displays weekly in the PSL and he kept out two penalties as Kaizer Chiefs beat Orlando Pirates 4-2 on penalties in the 2019 Telkom Knockout Quarter-finals .
He was also spectacular against Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns in the PSL. Thus it was inevitable to send a call up to him after Uzoho got injured last month in the Brazil friendly, an incident which threw the Super Eagles handlers for a search for a new goalkeeper.
Undoubtedly, Akpeyi is Super Eagle’s most in-form goalkeeper Nigeria has in any top-flight league in the World, Ikechukwu Ezenwa can’t be assessed after being inactive for a long period due to NPFL delayed resumption while Maduka Okoye in the German lower divisions wasn’t showing up with performances and numbers that are worth to man the Super Eagles goalpost against African oppositions in the AFCON qualifiers.
While some hailed his recall into the Super Eagles squad on the back of his club performances with the hope that he would replicate such in the Green White Green, many still hold a skepticism to the fact that he may still be a chameleon who in the national team is a liability that costs the team, disappearing and disappointing, allegedly by some, due to the pressure of playing in the national team which is not present in club football or according to others, he is not good enough irrespective.
Nevertheless, like him or not, Akpeyi is what we don’t want but can’t do without, a Prodigal son we can only hope will turn a new leaf as soon as possible.
Content created and supplied by: Abdulameed105a (via Opera News )