Stoke City of the English Championship new signing Oghenekaro Etebo was unfortunate to score an own goal in the defeat to Croatia but he was one of the few from the Super Eagles line up that finished the game with enhanced reputation.
Playing in a central midfield duo with Wilfred Ndidi, Etebo showed a courage, determination, technical balance and drive with the ball that many of his more celebrated colleagues lacked. And in the Mixed Zone at the Kaliningrad stadium after the defeat, his was annoyance, irritation even, at the loss.
“I genuinely did not care who was in their team” was his response to a question on how it felt to play against of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakatic and the rest. “I just went on there to play my game and determined to help me country win. I did not play against the names in anyway”.
Etebo inadvertently diverted Mario Mandzukic’s abysmally wayward header – from an unmarked position – beyond keeper Francis Uzoho to give Croatia the lead. His head never dropped which was unsurprising because to him “it is football. These things happen in the game and it is no big deal”.
During the Rio Olympics, Etebo was Nigeria’s top scorer. Many believe he could be better deployed in a more advanced role. “I just want to play football and will play wherever the coach asks me to play. Yes, I know I can score goals but it is a team game and we have roles to fulfil for the team”.
Goal scoring central midfielders are not common in the modern game, so it is quite strange that with his record when played in advance roles, that the former Warri Wolves player is deployed so deep for the Super Eagles.
For the Iceland game, Etebo says “We just need to correct the mistakes we made today (Saturday) and make sure we win that match so we have a chance of progress from the group”.