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Nigeria legend Peter Rufai reveals the AFCON match Super Eagles goalie Stanley Nwabali showed he’s the real deal

The Chippa United shot-stopper has the Super Eagles’ number-one jersey under lock and key following his excellent showings at the just-concluded continental championships

Nigeria legend Peter Rufai has revealed his admiration for new Super Eagles goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali after the Chippa United star impressed at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, Soccernet.ng reports.

The goalkeeping department was the most problematic area for the Super Eagles ahead of the AFCON, with goalkeepers Francis Uzoho, Adebayo Adeleye, and Maduka Okoye failing to impress.

On the eve of the tournament, however, head coach Jose Peseiro scouted Nwabali in South Africa and handed the 27-year-old his competitive debut in Nigeria’s first game against Equatorial Guinea.

Nwabali had little to do in that encounter as Nigeria’s defence kept the Equatoguineans’ attack at bay for large stretches of the game that ended in a 1-1 draw.

Still, the former Enyimba and Lobi Stars ace showed enough charisma and goalkeeping nous to convince 1994 AFCON winner Rufai that he was the real deal.

Stanley Nwabali
Stanley Nwabali

“In the commencement of the AFCON, the first match against Equatorial Guinea, that was my first time seeing Stanley Nwabali,” Rufai told TVC News.

“Immediately I assessed his performance, his movement, communication, composure, and I immediately said to myself Nigeria has been able to solve this problem – the yearning of Nigeria getting a better goalkeeper for the Super Eagles.

“Nwabali in that first match [against Equatorial Guinea] satisfied me, and I was happy with what I saw. Nigerians were happy with what they saw as well, but it didn’t just end there.”

After the Equatorial Guinea match, Nwabali went on to keep four consecutive clean sheets to break a Nigerian record that had stood for more than four decades at the AFCON.

Nwabali was also a top contender for the AFCON Best Goalkeeper award heading into the competition’s final.

Nigeria, however, lost the final 2-1 to hosts Cote d’Ivoire, and South Africa’s Ronwen Williams was named the tournament’s number-one shot-stopper instead.