The Chippa United goalkeeper has been in goal for the Super Eagles in their two games, and it is very likely that he will continue to guard the posts for as long as Nigeria remain in the tournament.
Despite his heroics, the 27-year-old never believed he was going to start games for the Super Eagles ahead of Francis Uzoho, but also spoke of his readiness to keep the post for the country anytime he was called upon.
“No, I was not expecting to play in the opening game but I was ready even when I had the call-up, but talking about starting, I was not sure.” Nwabali told the press.
Nwabali's respect for Francis Uzoho
Nwabali's performances for the country have been commendable and endeared him to the Nigerian football faithful and neutrals alike. There has been an iffy punch or two as he comes for crosses, but there is every reason to be optimistic about his ability.
He also shared his experience of his first AFCON but was quick to bat way away from reports that suggest he is the Nigeria first-choice goalkeeper.
“It's been nice, to be honest. It has been God throughout. But being the first choice? No, I am not the first choice,” he quipped.
According to Nwabali, Uzoho is always the first choice. He only had an opportunity to keep the post.
“Uzoho is still the first choice. I only had an opportunity to play. I always feel like when I have the opportunity to play, I just need to do my best, but talking about the first choice, Uzoho is still the first choice.”
Nwabali idolises Manuel Neuer
The stopper also spoke of his admiration of Bayern Munich and Germany legend Manuel Neuer. Nwabali's major strength is his ability to be in the right position to cover a large portion of the goal especially when opposing forwards are bearing down on goal.
Another strength of his is his distribution. He thinks like a striker and tries to anticipate if the opposition forward will dribble or shoot, and how he will shoot: close to the ground, in the air, with power, and in what direction.
His athleticism and reactions are fine-tuned to the point of near correction – these qualities are reminiscent of his idol, Neuer.
“I don't admire any other person apart from Manuel Neuer. I like Manuel Neuer. He has been my role model ever since. I like how he plays, his confidence, and his leadership. He is the only one I look up to,” he gushed.
Nwabali European transfer on the cards?
The Nigerian goalkeeper is reportedly pursued by the Belgian club as a replacement for Maxime Wensenns, who is reportedly eyeing a transfer to Turkey.
Nigeria's new favourite number one is expected to his place in the Nigeria team in their game against Guinea-Bissau on 22 January.