Two former Super Eagles stars, Samson Yebowei Siasia and Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha have disagreed over the own goal by Nigerian-born defender, Manuel Akanji, which gave Sweden victory against his adopted country, Switzerland.
Akanji deflected into his own net a goal-bound shot by a Swedish player, which gave the Scandinavian country a 1-0 win against the favourites, much to the chagrin of Siasia, but Okocha argued that the former FC Basel half-caste stopper found himself in an impossible position.
Before Tuesday’s mishap, the 22-year-old Akanji, who became tied to Switzerland when he debuted against Faroe Islands in a World Cup qualifier in June 2017, was rated one of the most outstanding young central defenders in the group stages of the 2018 World Cup.
He became the centre of a healthy disagreement between ‘The Emperor’ and ‘Sia1’on set, as both ex-internationals interpreted the dying minutes’ incident from different angles.
The two USA ’94 World Cup stars held divergent verdicts over Akanji, as Okocha made a case for the Borusssia Dortmund stopper, but Siasia blamed him for the goal conceded by Switzerland on Tuesday afternoon.
The Scandinavians advanced to the quarterfinals, after Emil Forsberg’s right-footed shot from outside the box in the 66th minute took a deflection off Akanji’s outspread toe.
In his reaction, Siasia said: ”It depends on how you hit the ball, you shouldn’t allow the ball to hit your foot.
”You should hit the ball; he was allowing the ball to hit him, that was why they conceded the goal. If he was kicking the ball himself, the reverse is the case.”
However, Okocha refused to lay the blame on Akanji, saying: ”You must give him credit for showing a little bit of composure there before getting the shot away.
”That was the little quality that was lacking between the two teams and that little quality made the difference even though he got lucky a bit. Credit to him.”
Incidentally, Akanji has disclosed that he was never contacted by Nigeria before he made his international bow for Switzerland against Faroe Islands in June 2017.
Akanji’s father is from one the Yoruba speaking regions in of Nigeria and his mother hails from Oberwinterthur in Switzerland.
The central defender stressed that he does not regret committing his international future to the Swiss, as they reached the last sixteen of the World Cup while Nigeria crashed out in the group stage.
”Nigeria never called me to come and play for them. So, it was never a question to be answered because Switzerland called me to play for them and I accepted.
”No regret at all for not playing for Nigeria. We came into the next round, Nigeria didn’t. And it was my decision. I don’t know if I would have played for Nigeria if I had been invited or not. Really I don’t know.
”I don’t have to think about if they called me because they did not call me. My parents never discussed with me where I should play or not.
“They just told me to do whatever I want to do. They always support me all the time no matter what I do.”