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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Kaizer Chiefs’ Akpeyi very important player for Nigeria – Okocha

3:45 PM SGT 14/1/22
Daniel Akpeyi of Nigeria
The Super Eagles legend believes the Amakhosi custodian is still a key player for the national side despite missing their opener

Nigeria legend Jay-Jay Okocha has described Kaizer Chiefs custodian Daniel Akpeyi as a very important player for the Super Eagles despite him missing the Africa Cup of Nations opener against Egypt on Tuesday.

The 35-year-old started from the bench as the Super Eagles snatched a 1-0 win against the Pharaohs in their Group D fixture at Roumde Adjia Stadium.

Nigeria’s interim coach Augustine Eguavoen overlooked the Amakhosi custodian for German-born Nigerian Maduka Okoye and the Super Eagles went on to keep a clean sheet after Kelechi Iheanacho scored the all-important goal.

Okocha, who won the 1994 Afcon with Nigeria and reached at least the semi-finals in all five of the Afcon tournaments he appeared in, feels Akpeyi lost his starting role to Okoye because of injury.

“Daniel [Akpeyi] is a very important player for the squad. He only lost his place through injury and it shows how strong the whole squad is because once you miss out because of injury it is always difficult to get back for a goalkeeper,” Okocha said as quoted by Kaizer Chiefs' official website.

“We believe we have a great squad and we have people like Daniel we can rely on if needed.”

Apart from Okoye, Akpeyi is currently fighting it out for the starting role with Francis Uzoho and John Barinyima, and according to Okocha, who played for a number of top clubs across Europe, the current competition amongst goalkeepers in the Super Eagles squad is healthy and will benefit the team in the long run.

“It is a plus for us as the keeper’s role is very important,” Okocha continued. “And it is important to have someone you can rely on if your defence is breached.

“I am happy that we have a happy competition in our goalkeeping department and it is a plus for any coach.”

On Nigeria topping their group after the win against Egypt, Okocha said: “I am delighted and happy because we need to start these kinds of tournaments on a good note.

“We played really, really well. The whole squad showed that we are well prepared. Every player in the squad is important. The ones who came in took over from those who started. It was a fantastic game for us.

“It’s always important to show your intentions coming up against one of the favourites. It was the first game and it was important that we started on a good note.”

The Super Eagles will continue their hunt for the trophy they last won in 2013 when they take on Sudan in Garoua on Saturday.