Nigeria manager Gernot Rohr has praised the performance of young goalkeeper Maduka Okoye in his side’s 0-0 draw with Sierra Leone in Freetown earlier this week.
The goalless stalemate was a second successive disappointing result for the Super Eagles, after they threw away a four-goal lead to be held 4-4 by the Leone Stars in Benin City last Friday.
It also saw Nigeria spurn the chance to claim early qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations finals, a feat already achieved by Senegal, Algeria, Mali and Tunisia (alongside hosts Cameroon).
Yet the silver lining of Tuesday’s away draw was the performance of 21-year-old Okoye, who was a surprise pick ahead of the more experienced Daniel Akpeyi. Okoye rewarded Rohr’s faith in him with a clean sheet and a solid all-round performance.
“It’s a long, long time that we had a goalless defence and we wanted to be solid after what happened in the second half the other day,” Rohr is quoted by All Nigeria Soccer.
“I am especially very happy for our goalkeeper [Okoye] who showed to everybody that he is a good one.
“We have a young team, it was a shock the other day after the injury to Victor Osimhen, everybody was afraid, and today they wanted to fight for him, they did it, they fought very well.”
Rohr went on to reveal that the Super Eagles are on the brink of qualifying for the AFCON, having accumulated eight points from four matches.
“It’s not official but we are very close now to qualification, we also saw the result of Benin who played a draw in Lesotho,” said the German.
“All the games are difficult, there are no little opponents, everybody is well organised, on this difficult pitch we tried to play football.”
Nigeria’s remaining Group L qualifiers will see them face Benin away and Lesotho at home in March 2021.