Former Nigeria captain Peter Rufai has backed Daniel Akpeyi to keep growing when he plays regularly in the national team and in the Premier Soccer League with Kaizer Chiefs.
Akpeyi returned to Gernot Rohr’s team this month for their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers after missing their last two international friendly games against Ukraine and Brazil.
The 33-year-old’s heroics in South Africa’s Telkom Knockout Cup earned him a recall to the Super Eagles since their third-place finish at 2019 Afcon in Egypt.
Akpeyi returned to the starting XI in Nigeria’s 2-1 win over Benin and Rufai, who led the country to the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, has defended him from critics.
“In football, you can never say you have overgrown challenges that confront people in your position,” the 56-year-old told Goal.
“You can be doing well as a striker, what about if they bring you against the best defender in the world? You can be the best goalkeeper in that season but if you have strikers like Drogba and Messi are approaching your defence, it is a different situation.
“It depends on your era, like when a goalkeeper plays against a top side and he does not perform very well, people will think he is not good.
“Goalkeepers cannot overgrow their challenges, Akpeyi is still a goalkeeper and he is doing well at the moment, training day in and out to show his qualities. As long as he is playing, he will keep growing and keep showing his qualities.”
Ahead of the Super Eagles’ second Group L game against Lesotho on Sunday, the former Deportivo La Coruna goalkeeper said he expects a difficult game between the three-time African champions and Lesotho, who are ranked 138th in the world.
“I know we still have confidence from the win against Benin. I believe when the going is like this for a team, they become formidable just like the Super Eagles. They have a way of coming out from difficult situations but people think football is the same as the past. All the nations playing are candidates for qualification so no match is easy,” he added.
Victory over the Crocodiles at the Setsoto Stadium will stretch Nigeria’s tally in Group L to six points as they aim to feature in the next biennial showpiece in Cameroon.