Former Super Eagles goalkeeper, Peter Rufai, insists Vincent Enyeama remains Nigeria’s best keeper, in spite of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Carl Ikeme’s heroics against Tanzania in their Gabon 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
Ikeme, making his Nigeria debut at 29, was the star man as he kept the Taifa Stars at bay with his amazing saves, to help the Eagles secure a point in the 0-0 draw at the National Stadium, Dar es Salaam on Saturday.
The former Spain-based custodian praised Ikeme for his “brilliant performance” in the encounter, saying Nigeria coach Sunday Oliseh and his coaching staff deserved commendation for spotting Ikeme.
But he said the Wolves keeper needed consistent performances to become a worthy replacement for Vincent Enyeama, who has been the Eagles’ first choice for 13 years, with over 100 caps.
“He (Ikeme) put in a brilliant performance on his debut for the national team and I commend the coaches for scouting him.
This is the kind of work we must do to identify the best talents for the national team,” the former Eagles captain and winner of the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations told our correspondent on the telephone on Monday.
“As far as service is concerned, his initial performance was brilliant, but we must look at competency in subsequent games.
It’s only by consistent performances that we can say that he is capable of replacing Enyeama, who has served Nigeria very well.
“We need to encourage Ikeme to put in better performances for the national team. I see him going on to become a great keeper for Nigeria, if he continues this way.”
Hapoel Be’er Sheva keeper Austin Ejide, has been Enyeama’s only major competitor for the Eagles’ first choice, but he has only played bit parts in the 13 years that Enyeama has manned the posts for the national.
But another ex-international, Taribo West, is happy with Ikeme’s emergence, saying it would lead to fierce competition for a starting role in the goalkeeping section.
The Atlanta 1996 gold medallist said, “Ikeme was outstanding. Apart from the goalkeeper, I didn’t see anything in the middle and in the attack of the Eagles. He was the only one.
“This put the keeper under pressure several times but Ikeme proved that he could be relied on by pulling off some eye-catching saves. He was the Man-of-the-Match and I’m happy Enyeama now has a new and strong competitor. If he retires today, we will be happy because we have someone who can take his place.
“During our playing days, our keeper, Dosu Joseph, had a great understanding with his defence and that helped us a great deal. I think what he (Ikeme) needs to do now is have a great understanding with his defenders and we can be confident of having one of the best defences in Africa again.”
Enyeama missed the game following the death of his mother.