Stanley Nwabali: Has the Super Eagles finally found Vincent Enyeama’s replacement?

Nwabali has earned comparison with Super Eagles legend Enyeama following some assured performances at AFCON 2023 |Photo Credit: Imago

AFCON 2023 Stanley Nwabali: Has the Super Eagles finally found Vincent Enyeama’s replacement?

Asukwo Oduo 21:15 - 07.02.2024

It seems Jose Peseiro has managed to solve Nigeria's goalkeeping problems by unearthing rock-solid Stanley Nwabali

Chippa United and Nigeria first-choice goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali has continued to receive praise from the nation’s football lovers.

The 27-year-old put in another outstanding performance for Nigeria against South Africa. This comes after he helped Nigeria win the Palancas Negras of Angola to book a place in the semi-finals of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Stanley Nwabali against South Africa

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have advanced into the final of the Africa Cup of Nations thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali. 

After the regulation 90 minutes and extra-time, there was nothing to separate between Nigeria and South Africa with the scores tied at 1-1. 

It was then down to penalties. Everyone expected South Africa’s goalkeeper Ronwen Williams to come out on top after he saved four spot kicks against Cape Verde, but it was a different game against Nigeria. 

Stanley Nwabali who plays in the PSL with Chippa United showed his abilities, and was the hero for Nigeria, saving two penalties from Teboho Mokoena and Evidence Makgopa. 

The 27-year-old brilliant performance means Nigeria can now dream of lifting a fourth AFCON title when they face either Ivory Coast or DR Congo in the final.

Nwabali saves Nigeria against Angola

Nigeria could have started the game on the back foot but for a smart save that Nwabali made at his near post to deny Mabululu from putting Angola in front.

Since joining Chippa United in October 2022, Stanley Nwabali has worked his way to the number one spot, keeping 7 clean sheets in 15 appearance in the 23/24 PSL season.

Nwabali impresses after returning from injury 

Stanley Nwabali and Victor Osimhen |
Stanley Nwabali and Victor Osimhen |Photo Credit: Imago

Before the game against Angola, there were concerns regarding Nwabali’s fitness, after he suffered a knock in the R16 tie against Cameroon. However, the former Katsina United shot-stopper recovered in time to face the Palancas Negras.

His assured performance in goal and how he commanded the well-marshaled Super Eagles backline led by Troost-Ekong has been commendable.

Nwabali has only picked the ball out of his net once the entire tournament - in the first game against Equatorial Guinea when Salvador breached the Nigerian defence to put his team in front.

Like Vincent Enyeama like Stanley Nwabali

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Former Super Eagles number one and arguably Nigeria's best goalkeeper in the last two decades Vincent Enyeama burst into the scenes at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea and Japan.

Coach Onigbinde handed Enyeama his debut in Nigeria's last game against the Three Lions of England, where he produced one of the saves of the tournament to deny Manchester United legend Paul Scholes.

Since then, Enyeama's career was on an upward trajectory. He moved to Lille, where he won several awards including the best goalkeeper in the league.

Vincent Enyeama boasts an impressive 48 clean sheets in 96 games for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, conceding just 70 goals in the process.

The ex-Enyimba skipper's record (including scoring 13 career goals as a goalkeeper) ranks him as one of Nigeria's greatest-ever shot-stopper.

However, like Enyeama, Nwabali's first appearance for Nigeria came against Equatorial Guinea at this year's AFCON and his assured performances behind the sticks has earned him all the plaudits he's getting.

His two penalty saves against South Africa in an AFCON game put him in the same bracket as Vincent Enyeama who once saved four spot kicks for the Super Eagles in a game agsints Tunisia in 2004

It is expected that after this AFCON, Stanley Nwabali will land a big move to a club side in Europe, with a team like Union-Saint-Gilloise already jostling for his signature.

Nwabali came in at a time when Nigeria had a goalkeeping crisis, after Francis Uzoho failed to convince.

If Nwabali keeps producing the sorts of performances we have seen from him in this tournament, he might just go on to have a glittering career like Super Eagles legend Vincent Enyeama.