Cape Town — Augustine ‘Jay-Jay’ Okocha, one the finest footballers to grace the African continent, has high praise for fellow Nigerian Daniel Akpeyi, the Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper.
Akpeyi is presently with the Nigerian national team in Cameroon where the CAF Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) is in progress. The 73-times capped Okocha is in South Africa working in the SuperSport studios in Randburg as an analyst for Afcon.
After two matches, Akpeyi has not yet cracked the nod for a place in the run-on XI and has been on the substitutes bench. Nigeria have won both their opening games and their performance against Mo Salah's Egypt had a championship ring about it.
Akpeyi has warmed the substitutes bench while Maduka Okoye, the German-born Nigerian goalkeeper has been doing duty between the sticks for the 'Super Eagles'.
Despite this, Okocha said Akpeyi is a valuable member of the 'Super Eagles' squad.
“Daniel is a very important player for the squad," said Okocha. "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.
"We believe we (Nigeria) have a great squad and we have people like Daniel we can rely on if needed.
“It is a plus for us as the keeper’s role is very important.
"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."
Akpeyi is the second choice among Nigeria's goalminders since he's been on the bench for the two opening games. The other two keepers in the Nigerian squad are Francis Uzoho and John Barinyima.
Okocha is pleased with Nigeria's performances in the D Group, especially after their win over tournament favourites Egypt.
“I am delighted because we need to start these kinds of tournaments on a good note," said Okocha.
"We played well (against Egypt). 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 we needed to start on a good note."
Over the weekend, Nigeria defeated Sudan 3-1. On Wednesday, Nigeria the only undefeated Group D team will play Guinea-Bissau.