Okoye: Italy World Cup goalkeeper adamant Nigeria outcast only missing one thing to be world-class

After Udinese's 1-2 defeat to Serie A leaders Inter Milan on Monday at Friuli, former Italy goalkeeper Luca Marchegiani spoke highly of Super Eagles goalkeeper Maduka Okoye.

Udinese were hoping to defeat the runaway Serie A champions when they hosted the Nerazzurri. Their hope was further heightened when Lazar Samardzic gave the Bianconeri the lead in the 40th minute.

Unfortunately for Udinese, Hakan Çalhanoğlu equalised for Inter Milan 10 minutes after the interval, and substitute Davide Frattesi scored the winning goal in additional time.

The result solidified Inter's position at the top of the league table with 82 points, while Udinese remained in 15th place with 28 points.

Marchegiani's remarks on Maduka Okoye

The 58-year-old expressed optimism about Okoye's potential and highlighted areas where he believes Okoye can further develop as a goalkeeper.

“He has room for improvement, he is a goalkeeper who can also grow from a technical point of view and the Italian school can help him from this point of view.

“He has extraordinary physical qualities and is also brave. I like how he plays the role. If he improves on the reading of high trajectories he can truly become a goalkeeper of the highest level, given his height and speed.”

Marchegiani represented clubs such as Jesi, Aurora Latini, Brescia, Torino, Lazio, and Chievo during his playing career. He also earned nine caps for the Italian national team and was a member of the 1994 FIFA World Cup Italy squad.

Marchegiani was selected as Italy's second-choice goalkeeper behind Gianluca Pagliuca, known for his superior ball skills.

Despite this, Marchegiani managed to play in three matches during the tournament. His first appearance came as a substitute against Norway, stepping in for Roberto Baggio after Pagliuca was sent off.

In that game, Marchegiani helped 10-man Italy side secure a clean sheet and win 1–0. He also featured in the final group game against Mexico, which ended in a 1–1 draw, as well as the round of 16 match against Nigeria, where Italy secured a 2–1 extra-time victory.

Marchegiani's standout performances led some pundits to advocate for his continued presence in the starting lineup.

However, Pagliuca regained his starting position after serving a two-game suspension and played in the remaining matches of the tournament.

How has Maduka Okoye performed for Udinese this season?

The 24-year-old has made 14 appearances for Udinese in Serie A and has conceded 19 goals while keeping three clean sheets. Having started the season as second-choice behind veteran Marco Silvestri, the Nigeria international has roared back to claim a starting berth, and had come in for praise from fans and pundits alike.

Okoye joined the Italian outfit in August 2023 from Watford and has previously played for Fortuna Düsseldorf, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen, and Sparta Rotterdam.

Has Maduka Okoye's time with the Super Eagles ended?

Since the aftermath of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, Maduka Okoye appears to have taken a break from the national team. The former Sparta Rotterdam man was the subject of widespread social media abuse in the wake of Nigeria's elimination at the hands of Tunisia, prompting him to momentarily shut down his social media profiles and excuse himself from the international fold.

Although he was fit and available for selection, both parties agreed to his absence from the squad for the recent AFCON in Ivory Coast, during which he watched the team secure a second-place finish behind the hosts.

He was also left out of Super Eagles team that engaged Ghana and Mali in international friendlies last month. He has made 16 appearances for the Super Eagles since making his debut in 2019 in a friendly against Brazil.

Avatar photo
Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu, a Ghanaian sports journalist, brings a dynamic perspective to the field with over a decade of experience. Having contributed to esteemed platforms such as Kickgh.com and Inkandkicks.com. Godfred is recognised for his insightful commentary and in-depth analysis of African football.
His passion for storytelling and commitment to accuracy have established him as a trusted authority in sports journalism in Ghana, captivating audiences with his engaging narratives and unparalleled expertise.
Godfred holds a degree in Integrated Development Studies (Social and Development Administration option) from the University for Development Studies, Ghana.