Would Gernot Rohr have picked Ajayi ahead of Akpoguma?
Semi Ajayi, who missed out on participation at the last afcon tournament, is apparently over the moon this time around as circumstances conspired to lead to his last gasp invitation. Coach Eguavoen famously described Ajayi as being desperate to represent Nigeria in the Afcon.
What I find inscrutable is the claim that Semi Ajayi could have been placed in a higher pecking order in the original full list prepared and submitted by the former controversial head coach Gernot Rohr and that Akpoguma was just in the ‘alternate list’.
That flies in the face of the facts on ground at the time.
“Semi Ajayi, obviously he was not on the 28-man list, but he was on the alternate list. Kevin Akpoguma was (also) on the alternate list,” said enthusiastic coach Eguavoen according to recent media reports.
Well, if Gernot Rohr were in charge, Akpoguma would have gone to the Afcon as he appeared to have been miles ahead of Ajayi in his pecking order.
After the conclusion of the Afcon qualifiers in March last year, it seemed Gernot Rohr had seen enough of Semi Ajayi having overlooked him for all the world cup qualifiers later in the year.
Conversely, Kevin Akpoguma was invited for all the world cup qualifiers he was fit to attend. Gernot Rohr would speak highly of him even when the former Germany Youth International had a tepid performance for Nigeria, which was often the case for most parts.
Although Akpoguma had yet to win over many Super Eagles fans, the league he plays and improvements and versatility he showed in club of late was starting to win many doubters over.
I just find it incredulous that Gernot Rohr would have placed Ajayi – who is having a torrid time at Wes Brom – in a higher pecking order in his list of players to prosecute the Afcon ahead of Akpoguma.
What Akpoguma’s exclusion, despite the number of drop outs we had from the original list, is telling me is that he is not highly rated by some very influencial members of the technical committee of the Glass House.
Omeruo, Ndah, Ajayi and even Jamilu Collins are all players that could have been excused to make way for Akpoguma in this Afcon if we go by recent consistency in club football and the calibre of league they play. He has even featured in more Super Eagles matches recently than Ajayi and Ndah.
Now, I am not bemoaning Akpoguma’s snub. Far from it. I am yet to be sold entirely on what he brings to the Super Eagles.
As acknowledged, he has improved tremendously in club football of late but for Nigeria, he still seems somewhat lightweight defensively and a huge gamble to take to a major tournament. He does the basics well enough in full back position without producing any wow or exciting moments.
I am pleased for Semi Ajayi and would definitely have picked him subjectively ahead of Akpoguma for the Afcon.
I think the Super Eagles are light in the defensive midfield department with Ndidi the only natural born DM selected. Ajayi has moonlighted that role for Nigeria and should be able to reprise it if the need arises in Cameroon. Admittedly he is flaky at centre back and prone to errors but can be solid for most parts and offers far more potent goals threat than Akpoguma in set piece routines. Akpoguma was a Rohr pet project. Playing him ahead of players like Aina and Ebuehi as fullback further alienated more fans from the already unpopular Rohr at the time. With his mentor (Rohr) gone, will we ever see Akpoguma dawn a Super Eagles jersey in the future? It looks very dicey indeed.
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