Why William Troost-Ekong is Nigeria’s unsung hero

Why William Troost-Ekong is Nigeria’s unsung hero
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As the Super Eagles continue to thrive and soar high at AFCON 2023, William Troost-Ekong has been talked about less while the attackers have hugged the headlines.

The Super Eagles have a date on Friday against the Palancas Negras of Angola after their solid display against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, earning them a 2-0 victory and a place in the quarter-finals.

While all eyes have been on the doyen of the team, Nigerians are losing sight of the most decisive department in the team – the defence.

The Super Eagles have conceded only one goal in the tournament, and it came in their opening game against the Nzalang Nacional of Equatorial Guinea.

No side has bettered this record at AFCON 2023, with the defending champions Senegal and the highly-rated Morocco managing the feat.

Besides the coach Jose Peseiro, who designed a system that has made the Super Eagles a compact side, the on-field captain William Troost-Ekong should get some credit.

William Troost-Ekong: Super Eagles Overlooked Superhero

William Troost-Ekong a super eagles defence stalwart
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When William Troost-Ekong changed allegiance from the Netherlands to Nigeria, many did not see him as a player who could become a legend for the team.

Many saw him as another half-baked, good-looking but over-pampered foreign-based player who would not leave a mark in the team, but the former Dutch U-19 and U-20 player has caused a stir.

Since his 2015 debut for the Super Eagles, the 30-year-old defender has grown in leaps and bounds. Perhaps still to be a legend, but he has done well for the team at AFCON 2023.

He has yet to command the defence in the mould of Taribo West and Uche Okechukwu. The aura he exudes does not put fear into opponents, yet he quietly does his business.

William Troost-Ekong has stood like the rock of Gibraltar for the Super Eagles, marshalling the defence well and ensuring that opponents don’t get a sniff at his goal.

Against Cameroon, he put in a 5-star performance to ensure that the Indomitable Lions did not get a shot on target throughout the match.

William Troost-Ekong has shown a maturity that has been absent in the Super Eagles defence for a long time and continues to lead the line on the pitch as the team captain, Ahmed Musa, is yet to play any game.

Praises have gone the way of players like Victor Osimhen, Ademola Lookman, Calvin Bassey and Ola Aina, but William Troost-Ekong has been the bedrock of the Super Eagles' defence.

There is a feeling that the defence would go to pieces if the PAOK, Greece defender, is out of the team.

Perhaps it is because the former Udinese defender is yet to lead the Super Eagles to win a major title.

William Troost-Ekong: Eight years with the Super Eagles

William Troost-Ekong wins an award with the Super Eagles
Photo by Icon Sport

While one cannot compare William Troost-Ekong with Stephen Keshi, Uche Okechukwu, Taribo West, and Joseph Yobo, the former Watford defender would write his name into Super Eagles folklore if they win AFCON 2023.

After eight years with the Super Eagles, William Troost-Ekong has only an AFCON and Olympics bronze medal for his efforts.

He captained the Nigeria national team at AFCON 2021, and despite being named in the tournament’s Technical Study Group’s Best XI of the group stage, the Super Eagles crashed out in the round of 16 after a 0-1 loss to the Eagles of Carthage.

William Troost-Ekong hopes Nigeria will go on to win AFCON 2023. He has a goal to his name in this tournament after scoring the penalty against the Elephants of Ivory Coast in a 1-0 victory.

While fans celebrate an attack force that has not reached its full potential, it is worth remembering that the defence has kept them in the tournament, and William Troost-Ekong has been at the centre of it all.

This article was most recently revised and updated 3 weeks ago

Chooka Izuegbuna is a Sports Journalist with 20 years of experience in print, TV and Radio. He has worked with some of the top media houses in Nigeria, including NTA Network, Channels TV, TVC, Silverbird TV and MITV. Chooka broke his sports reporting teeth with The Game Football Weekly in 2003 as a cartoonist and reporter.