Akpeyi gets Eagles chance as injury knocks Ikeme out

Festus Abu

South Africa-based goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi was on Wednesday given  the chance to resurrect his international career after being invited by Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr to replace the Super Eagles’ first-choice goalkeeper Carl Ikeme ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier against Algeria.

Rohr was forced to invite Chippa United keeper, who he had omitted from his 24-man squad for the crucial encounter against the Desert Foxes in Uyo on November 12, after Wolverhampton Wanderers withdrew their number keeper Ikeme from the clash following an injury.

The 30-year-old, who was  born in England,  was taken off at half-time after  he was injured during Wolves’ 1-1 against  Blackburn  Rovers in their Championship game  at Ewood Park on Saturday.

Spokesman for the Nigeria Football Federation Ademola  Olajire confirmed  Rio 2016 Olympic Games bronze medallist Akpeyi had been invited by Rohr to  take Ikeme’s place  in the squad for the Uyo clash. Akpeyi was not invited for the World Cup qualifier against Zambia,  which Nigeria won 2-1 on October 9.

“The  former junior international (Akpeyi)  is a direct replacement for  Ikeme, whose English club Wolverhampton Wanderers wrote to the NFF, saying he would be unavailable as a result of his injury,” Olajire said.

And former Nigeria keeper Ike Shorunmu   has backed Rohr’s decision to invite Akpeyi, saying the 30-year-old former Warri Wolves custodian “can do the job well”.

Shorunmu, who represented Nigeria at the  Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup after winning silver at the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations, urged  Rohr to start Akpeyi in goal against Algeria.

“It’s unfortunate that Ikeme will not be available for the match,” the former Besiktas star told our correspondent on the telephone on Wednesday.

 “He’s  our number one  keeper and it’s not easy to play a big match without your number one keeper.

“I’m happy that the coach has invited Akpeyi, who is also a very good keeper – and experienced. He can do the job well.

“I believe  he can replicate the form  that earned him a lot of praise  after our match  (Gabon 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier) against Egypt in Alexandria.”

 The former Nigeria goalkeeping coach  added, “Dele Alampasu is not  ready yet for this level (World Cup qualifier) and we shouldn’t put ourselves under pressure by using a young keeper for the game.”

Meanwhile,   the Desert Foxes  have been dealt a huge blow  after  the Algerian Football Federation confirmed  Bordeaux forward Adam Ounas  will miss the game following an injury.

The federation said on their official website the French-born teenager, who switched his international allegiance to Algeria recently, was injured in a French Ligue 1 game  on Saturday and would not make the trip to Nigeria.

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