AFCON 2021: Maduka Okoye a doubt after painful shoulder injury

Losing their number one goalkeeper could prove terminal to Nations Cup aspirations

Maduka Okoye

Nigeria international Maduka Okoye could become the latest Super Eagles player to be ruled out of next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon.

The 22-year-old goalkeeper went off injured after 24 minutes in Sparta Rotterdam’s Eredivisie meeting with league leaders Ajax on Sunday afternoon with the score at 0-0. In the 16th minute, Okoye came off his line to punch a Daley Blind cross from the left. While he got a good fist on the delivery, his left shoulder collided with the visitors’ centre-forward Danilo.

After spending minutes receiving treatment down on the turf, the former Fortuna Dusseldorf goalkeeper looked set to carry on. However, after testing out throwing motions, Okoye signalled to the bench with a wince, and Sparta manager Henk Fraser sent on back-up goalkeeper Benjamin Van Leer, whose last appearance for the club came in October 2020, in his place.

While coming off, Okoye got into some afters with Ajax captain Dusan Tadic, who took umbrage at his speed of departure. Both men had to be restrained by their teammates, after which the Nigerian made his way straight down the Het Kasteel tunnel.

Okoye will be assessed by the club, and Nigeria fans will wait with bated breath on the health of the Super Eagles number one, who has grown in leaps since making his international debut in 2019 against Brazil. The German-born goalkeeper has made 13 appearances for Nigeria, and is set to join Premier League side Watford at the end of the 2021/22 league season.

Already, Nigeria has seen energetic midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo ruled out for the AFCON on account of tearing his quadriceps. In further pre-tournament misfortune, only last week striker Victor Osimhen broke his cheekbone and eye socket following a gruesome clash of heads that necessitated surgery, and could be out of action until the end of February 2022.

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