Maduka Okoye: Udinese GK reveals ‘hard’ feeling watching Nigeria’s AFCON 2023 adventure from home

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The former Sparta Rotterdam goalie was the Super Eagles’ number-one gloveman at the 2021 edition of the continental championships

Udinese goalkeeper Maduka Okoye has revealed he would have loved to be a part of Nigeria’s campaign at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire, reports.

Okoye was in goal for three of Nigeria’s four games at the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, where the Super Eagles won all their three group matches to finish ahead of Egypt as leaders.

But Okoye was partly to blame as Nigeria bowed out unceremoniously at the hands of Tunisia in the first knockout round.

The former Watford goalie has not been in goal for the Super Eagles since that match, with Francis Uzoho taking over the number-one jersey, albeit unconvincingly.

Ahead of the delayed 2023 edition played between January and February 2024, head coach Jose Peseiro made untested Chippa United goalie Stanley Nwabali Nigeria’s first choice between ...s.

Okoye did not make the squad, as Peseiro went with Uzoho and Enyimba goalie Olorunleke Ojo in his final 25-man roster.

Nwabali impressed in Cote d’Ivoire, with the 27-year-old star earning recognition as one of the best, as Nigeria blazed through the tournament unbeaten until the final.

Okoye, talking to Udinese tonight, confessed that it was difficult to sit at home and watch his international teammates do the nation proud.

And the former Sparta Rotterdam shot-stopper has vowed to work his way back to the Super Eagles.

“My injury is well behind me,” Okoye said. “I feel at 100% now. I’d like to get back playing for Nigeria as soon as possible. It was hard watching the African Cup of Nations from home.”

Maduka Okoye

Okoye did not play a league game for Watford after joining from Spotta Rotterdam in a big-money move, but he is enjoying a fresh lease of life in Serie A with Udinese.

The Nigeria international is now the club’s official number-one goalkeeper, and he reveals why he has settled down in no time in Italy.

“Serie A is more tactical than the Netherlands and England,” he said.

“There are so many top players. While the tactics vary between the leagues, the role of a goalkeeper doesn’t differ greatly. I get on well with Marco Silvestri and Daniele Padelli – they’re top lads who’ve helped me a lot. All of my team-mates and family have been a great support.

“I love Udine. It’s a small but beautiful city.”

Okoye is not the only person of Nigerian descent at Udinese. He shares the club’s dressing room with Nigeria international forward Isaac Success and Super Eagles hopeful Kingsley Ehizibue.