Galatasaray defender Valentine Ozornwafor may have kicked a ball sparingly in the past season in Turkey, but could make a strong claim for regular first-team football after tonight’s game against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, IKENWA NNABUOGOR reckons…
Tongues wagged profusely querying coach Gernot Rohr when Galatasaray defender Valentine Ozornwafor was included in the Super Eagles squad to face their perennial rivals the Indomitable Lions in a double-header friendly.
Close watchers reacted in bewilderment the rationale behind the invitation of the towering defender, who only managed eight minutes of action in the Turkish Super Lig this closed season.
Ozornwafor had returned from loan at Almeria at the beginning of the season and only replaced Ryan Donk in the last eight minutes of a 6-0 spanking of Genclerbiligi on January 19 for his only action this season.
The languid back man would finally make his senior national team bow last Friday as he replaced stand-in captain William Ekong in the 89th minute in the first of the friendlies in Austria as the Eagles lost 1-0 to Cameroon.
It wasn’t the first time the former youth international would romance his country’s senior team; he observed from the bench in friendlies against Seychelles and Egypt in March, 2019
Rohr had been a long-time admirer of the giant rear man having kept tabs on him keep things tight at the rear for the Flying Eagles, playing in the 2019 African Nations Cup and 2019 FIFA U20 World Cup.
Rohr would get his target man in the Eagles rear as the team suffered dearth of central defence massive players’ withdrawals threatened the double friendly in Austria.
Rohr has never hidden his love for Ozornwafor, whose technical and tactical awareness playing for country’s U20s caught the eye of the Franco-German, even though he grossly lacked numbers in appearances for ‘Gala’, who finished second on the table to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League.
With Ekong out of tonight’s clash, Rohr will take a chance on Ozornwafor to pair the impressive Boavista defender Chidozie Awaziem in the heart of Eagles defence.
He could also turn things around by playing Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi in the central defence since the Eagles’ midfield looked spineless in the last Friday’s friendly.
Again, it could also take some damning guts by the former OGC Nice manager to throw into the deep end the uncapped Slovakia-based Anthony Jude Izuchukwu.
But Ozornwafor appears all set to earn his second cap for his country as the central defender after Rohr’s heart with the confidence that the former Enyimba star will not let him down.
Rohr also has different plans for his beloved emergency defender; playing him against mighty Cameroon with the opportunity of catching the eye for regular play as well attracting a club to price him away from ‘Gala’ next season.
Ozornwafor knows the huge responsibility placed on his 22-year old shoulders and would not want to bungle it by playing poorly against Lions, whose rivalry with their neighbours is more than 60 years old.
One thing is clear – Ozornwafor must do well or risk a return to the bench at Galatasaray and the lanky defender would have no choice not to stand up and be counted against the physically-imposing Lions from Central Africa.
It can also be argued that his lack of playing time at ‘Gala’ could be tactical and not lack of ability as it appears coach Fatih Terim is still grooming him for bigger responsibilities in future.
Signing a long-term contract with the 22-time Turkish champions directly from local side Enyimba definitely came with so much ambition and long-term planning to turn the six-foot-plus defender into a finished article.
Could Rohr have nursed similar ambition for the youngster that had him sneak the former Almeria star through the back door and damn wagging tongues?
It is clear that Rohr is a strong believer in the towering defender and would take a huge risk by playing him against Cameroon, leaving him with the rare opportunity of taking his game to the next level.
Indeed, this Lions game will put the youngster on the shop window to catch an eye and anything short of competent showing will not be good enough for him.
Surely, Ozornwafor could have Terim singing a new tune of him should he post a superlative showing or have himself to blame for a poor outing.
Whichever way you look at it, Ozornwafor has a choice.