Nigerian footballers stumble over Ivory Coast; The Latvian Premier League can be a springboard for entering the national team

Thus, the Ivory Coast national team won the Africa Cup of Nations for the third time. The Egyptian team has won this trophy the most times in history – seven times. It’s true, this time the Egyptians didn’t even make it to the semi-finals.

The 60,000-capacity stadium in Abidjan was packed and, of course, orange, the color of the Ivory Coast, dominated. Spurred on by the crowd, the home team created dangerous situations in front of the Nigerian national team’s goal right from the start of the game. However, it was the Nigerian national team that opened the score in the 38th minute, with a goal scored by William Trust Ekong.

In the second half, however, the hosts fought back, with Frank Kesi scoring a goal in the 62nd minute. And the intrigue of the game was renewed. In the 81st minute, the stadium literally exploded with a wave of emotions, when Sébastien Alaire scored 2:1 for the home team. And that was all.

Europe as a Football Mecca for Nigerians

Football is like a second religion in many African countries, especially in the sixth largest country in terms of population in the world – Nigeria, where this democratic and relatively inexpensive sport is often the only one available to many children. The dream of millions of soccer fans is to be noticed and sign a million euro contract with one of the European clubs. But only a few succeed. However, a football career is like a lottery – to be noticed at the right time and place, but some talent may not end up on the stage where the scouts could notice him.

Although Asian countries are currently more relevant for earning big money, it is European football that is held in high esteem in this country, and not only because of the potentially high salary, but also because

only those who have proven themselves in European clubs, playing in the top leagues and proving themselves in the Eurocups and the Champions League can be in the Nigerian national football team.

Sparrows among eagles – goalkeepers of the Nigerian national team

Rarely, but there are exceptions, and sometimes they are justified. Thus, in this tournament, only two players in the Nigerian national team, known as the Super Eagles, do not have a European record. One of them also forged the most important success of this national team – the victory over the Republic of South Africa in the semi-finals. It is the goalkeeper, 27-year-old Stanley Nwabili, who was able to show character and guess the flight of the ball in a series of post-match shots. Although the entire football world was convinced at that moment that if it went to penalty kicks, the victory would go to South Africa, because their goal was protected by Ronwem Williams – the goalkeeper considered the best penalty saver in Africa. But Nigeria won – in the penalty kicks with 4:2. True, this skill was not so bright in the final.

Look, Nwabili has never played for European clubs.

He has spent his entire career in his native Nigeria, and will only play for the South African club “Chippa United” in 2022.

Can you reach the Nigerian national team from the Latvian football club?

If you look at the Nigerian national team, you can see the stars of the English Premier League, as well as players from many of Europe’s top leagues. But, of course, not from the Baltic States.

Although the Latvian football superleague is raising its level every year, it is almost impossible to reach the Nigerian national team from the top league of Latvia – the springboard is not good enough. Perhaps not as impossible as from Malta, because, as it turns out,

in recent years, one player from the Latvian club has managed to get a call-up to the Nigerian national team.

We are talking about goalkeeper Deli Alampas, who joined FK “Ventspils” in 2020, showed himself as part of this team in the Euroleague, and received a call-up to the Nigerian national team.

It is possible that the goalkeeper came to the attention of the Nigerian national team not so much because of the colors of “Ventspils” and the game in the international arena, but because of his previous achievements. Alampasu was one of the key players in the U-17 team in 2013 when Nigeria won the World Cup and was also awarded as the most valuable goalkeeper of the tournament. Later, he was called up to the U-20, U-23 national teams, as well as the adult national team, where he made his debut in the victory over Togo in 2017.

Several players who play or have played in Latvian clubs have been called up to the U-23 Nigerian national team. So, for example, Abiodun Ogunji, while playing for FK “Auda”, received a call-up to the U-23 national team.

The competition for the Nigerian national team is so great that even the Nigerian Tosin Ayegun, who was once spotted in the ranks of FC “Ventspils”, who was later taken under his wing by the Swiss “Zurich” and later by the French top league club FC “Lorient”, had to return to his ancestral Beninese citizenship. Therefore, this football player associated with Latvia is a Benin national team player.

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