This season, Ajax is flying high. The Amsterdam-based club has dominated the Eredivisie, scoring 42 goals and only conceding two to earn 30 points.
Outside of the Netherlands, Ajax has gone undefeated in the Champions League to secure qualification to the knockout round. De Godenzonen is looking like one of the best clubs in the world.
Sparta Rotterdam, a lowly club that has only accumulated ten points in thirteen games, is not doing well like Ajax. Sparta’s nonassertive offence has been the source of their misery.
A combination of incompetence and bad luck have made Sparta fans weep. Sparta will not stand a chance against the unstoppable Ajax.
Yet, in Nigeria, the focus will not be on Sparta’s sputtering offence. It will be about the Rotterdam keeper, Maduka Okoye.
Okoye will play a significant part in Nigeria’s AFCON dreams. Okoye might give hope to Rohr and the NFF with a good showing.
In the Eredivisie, the game will be significant for both clubs. Ajax will hope to get some breathing room with a win away from home.
One of Ajax’s goals is to win the Eredivisie, and they will have a better chance at doing that with their three points.
Players like Sebastian Haller, Steven Berghuis, and Dusan Tadic will need to increase their stock with good showings against Sparta.
This game will be more significant for Sparta.
Sparta is sixteenth out of eighteen clubs, teetering on the border of relegation. They will need lots of wins to keep out of the Eerste Divisie.
So far, de Kasteelheren does not look like the favourites to suffer relegation. But they will want to be safer than sorry.
With a win and other favourable outcomes, Sparta could jump up to fifteenth place. Fifteenth, although still bleak, will keep them out of the relegation zone.
The player that most Nigerians will focus on is Maduka Okoye. One of the best African goalkeepers, and the first-choice stopper for the Super Eagles, Okoye is a prospect that has immense potential.
His impact on the Castle-Lords has been tremendous. Okoye has made 42 saves(4th in Eredivisie) in 13 games with a 71.2 save percentage.
Those excellent stats, along with his natural athleticism and nose for the ball, helped him land a move to Vicarage Park. Okoye will join Watford for a club-record fee to help him face better competition and give him more attention.
The match against Ajax will be decisive for Okoye because it will give him a chance to unveil his skills on a global stage.
It will be a true test of challenge. Ajax will be a good test run for AFCON. By displaying his talent, Okoye will be ready for a cruel African Nations Cup.
The Super Eagles will need Okoye in top form for this AFCON. With their star player, Victor Osimhen, out for approximately three months, they will need other players to step up. We can rely on Leicester aces Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi along with Genk star Paul Onauchu.
But the Super Eagles will need a better defence. To emerge triumphant over elite teams, Nigeria will need to have an explosive defence.
Ajax will be like the nations Nigeria will play. Manager Gernot Rohr will see his keeper’s strengths and weaknesses this AFCON.
AJAX VS SPARTA
Anyone with a good understanding of Dutch soccer will know that Ajax should win this game. Sparta doesn’t have the right pieces to take down a perennial contender, much less a European contender. Bettors are putting their money on the Amsterdammers.
But keep your eyes peeled for Okoye. He could make a statement in this game, and it could be a turning point for many different people.
Written by Deolu Akingbade