By Ekine Moseph
With less than 60 days before Nigeria’s Super Eagles file out against South Africa in its quest to qualify for the 2019 African Nations Cup the goalkeeping position Eagles has been thrown up into a debate.
The Eagles’ number one goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme is facing a race against time to be fit for the June encounter after coach of his club, Wolverhampton Wanderers, ruled him out for the rest of the season due to a niggling hamstring injury.
Ikeme has been out for almost a month and missed the recent friendly against Senegal last month with Daniel Akpeyi starting in his absence.
With Rohr seemingly showing no trust whatsoever in home based FC Ifeanyi Ubah shot stopper Ikechukwu Ezenwa as possible replacements for Akpeyi or Ikeme, it will be a no brainer if Vincent Enyeama’s is recalled to the team and here is why.
Enyeama’s return is a win-win for Rohr and Nigeria
Vincent Enyeama’s early end to his international career in October, 2015 shocked many with the Lille shot stopper having endured a fractured relationship with then head coach, Sunday Oliseh but a recall now to the national set-up will be a major boost especially with Ikeme looking like a player susceptible to injuries.
Rohr hasn’t hidden his admiration for the 34-year old Enyeama since the Franco-German took charge of the Super Eagles.
In September last year Rohr was quoted by goal.com saying: “I asked about Enyeama when I signed because I know his qualities,” Rohr told media ahead of Tanzania’s game.
“I also spoke with the goalkeepers’ coach Alloy Agu and he spoke highly of him. I’ve called and spoken with Enyeama since my resumption but nothing is settled yet.
“I will see him after the Tanzania game because I saw him play in France and he’s the kind of player we need to help us move forward.”
With South Africa in June and a crucial World Cup double header against Cameroon in August still to come this year, Nigeria needs an assured presence in goal and Enyeama obviously provides you with that.
He doesn’t lack the experience, Enyeama has featured in 5 nations cups, 3 World Cups and a Confederations Cup so he certainly can’t be over awed by the challenges that lie ahead for the Super Eagles.
Young Eagles defence needs an experienced cover
Against Senegal, Gernot Rohr opted to field Kenneth Omeruo, Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong and Elderson Echiejile as the defensive set up with Tyrone Ebuehi, Abdullahi Shehu, Musa Mohammed, Kingsley Madu, Uche Agbo and Chidozie Awaziem as defensive cover on the bench.
Aside Echiejile with 53 caps for Nigeria and Omeruo with 31 caps none of the remaining centre halves in that squad can boast of up to 15 appearances in the green and white jerseys.
For such an inexperienced squad on International level, littered with young and talented footballers, Enyeama brings a bucket load of experience which the new ‘Oyinbo Wall’ can benefit from.
The experienced keeper boasts a vast understanding of the game.
More than just his shot-stopping abilities, Enyeama brings an unheralded amount of experience to what is otherwise a young collection of players.
Reintegrating Enyeama should be easy
The question many have raised have been how do Rohr reintegrate the ex-Eagles captain into the current set up with Mikel as captain.
Won’t Enyeama’s return upset Carl Ikeme thereby casting his position in the Super Eagles in doubt?
Fact is, almost two years on after Enyeama’s retirement, the goalkeeping position at the Super Eagles have been there for the taking for anyone consistent enough playing at the top level in Europe (hence the reason why Ezenwa has not gotten the look-in).
The said ‘fractured relationship' with Oliseh that lead to the fall out between the two has nothing to do with the new man at the helm – in Gernot Rohr.
Everyone will need to bury their hatchet for now for the good of the national team.
Ikeme has impressed in his time as first choice goalkeeper for the Super Eagles but with his injury record not looking like improving he may have to make do with being second choice.
Enyeama will be 35 in August this year but his performances for Lille in the French Ligue 1 hasn’t looked like nose diving anytime soon and if there was a time to get the Uyo born safe hands back into the national team now is the time