Feature | Injuries present Abdul Manaf Nurudeen a golden chance to be Black Star’s number one

Ghana’s World Cup squad was dealt two major blows before the tournament, with first choice keeper Jojo Wollacott being ruled out of the entire tournament with injury, while second choice keeper Richard Ofori is also unable to appear in Qatar. This has left the starting goalkeeper spot wide open. The three players battling it out are Asante Kotoko’s Danlad Ibrahim, St Gallen’s Lawrence Ati Zigi and Eupen’s Abdul Manaf Nurudeen.

It is likely that it will be between Nurudeen and Zigi, both of whom featured in the most recent AFCON squad, but neither played as Wollacott was the first choice. While Zigi may have featured more for his club side, during the recently friendlies against Brazil and Nicuragua in September, Nurudeen was the clear third choice behind Wallacott and Ofori. Many will expect that it will be between Zigi and Nurudeen, rather than Ibrahim. Both Zigi and Ibrahim were rumoured to be the two that would be dropped prior to the injuries to Wollacott and Ofori.

At just 23 years-old, Nurudeen still has plenty to learn as a keeper. He has shown, when picked by his club side Eupen, that his shot stopping is his greatest asset. This was particularly on show last season in a game against Club Brugge. where the keeper, on debut, made a string of high quality saves to earn his side a point away from home.

The youngster featured in 20 games for the Pandas last season, conceding 34 goals from an expected xG against of 34. He also saved two of the 7 penalties he faced. The potential was clearly there, but this year as the side struggled, so has Nurudeen. He has only featured three times for the Pandas, being replaced by former Union Berlin goalkeeper Lennart Moser. Despite a change in keeper, Eupen have still shipped goals. In 17 matches, the side have conceded 38 goals, giving them the second worst defence in the league.

For the Black Stars, Nurudeen has only featured twice, both in friendlies during the Kirin Cup in Japan. During that tournament, the young goalkeeper saved three penalties in the third place match against Chile as Ghana took the bronze medal. Former Black Stars goalkeeper George Owu has endorsed the Eupen shot stopper as Ghana’s number one, based on his performances during the Kirin Cup.

This tournament could be his chance to regain confidence and potentially push for the starting spot back in east Belgium. He will need to prove to Ghana head coach Otto Addo that the rest of his game is up there with his shot stopping ability. Command of area, especially making effective decisions when it comes to claiming or punching crosses is one area that he will need to work on.

Ghana are in a group with Portugal, South Korea and Uruguay. Given their prospective opponents, with the attacking talents of Portugal’s Bruno Fernandez and Cristiano Ronaldo, South Korea’s Spurs star Heung-Min Son and Uruguay’s experienced strikers in Edison Cavani and Luiz Suarez, Ghana may well want a strong shot stopper in between the posts. The Black Stars will almost certainly be looking for revenge against Uruguay, the side who knocked them out of the 2010 World Cup in dramatic fashion.

All eyes will be on the first team sheet to see which of the three keepers has impressed Addo the most. Nurudeen may never have a better chance to play for his nation during a World Cup than the one being presented to him in Qatar.

GBeNeFN | Ben Jackson

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