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Sports News of Friday, 21 January 2022

Source: punchng.com

Troost-Ekong proving critics wrong in Cameroon

William Troost-Ekong William Troost-Ekong

Super Eagles vice-captain William Troost-Ekong endured a difficult end to 2021. He was the target of fans of his Premier League club, Watford, who felt the Nigeria defender had performed poorly in the Hornets backline.

The centre-back suffered heavy criticism after Watford lost 4-2 away to Leicester City in a Premier League fixture at the King Power Stadium on November 28, 2021.

He was culpable for two of the goals and the fans took a swipe at him. The criticism on social media was so intense, with some fans suggesting that Troost-Ekong should no longer play for the club. One of the fans @WatfordTalk wrote on Twitter, “Ekong is absolutely hopeless, a genuinely appalling footballer, who consistently makes ridiculously basic mistakes. Should be nowhere near any side at this level.”

Another Hornets supporter @stuartscullion posted, “Troost-Ekong is doing his best. It’s not his fault he’s not good enough at this level. It’s our fault for having to pick him. He’s a Championship centre half at best.”

Fast forward to January 2022 at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon and what you have is a reborn Troost-Ekong. He’s the team’s leader on the pitch, standing in for captain Ahmed Musa and his influence has had a telling impact on the squad’s fortunes at the AFCON. Off the pitch, he’s a major voice in the Eagles dressing room and commands respect from his teammates.

The defender has led by example in training and on match days with his high work rate and he showed the team could count on him to score goals too, when he calmly tapped in the Eagles second goal after Moses Simon’s ferocious shot ricocheted off the upright in the 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau on Wednesday.

For his outstanding performance, he was voted Man-of-The-Match. After the game, Troost-Ekong added that the criticism he suffered prior to the tournament had made him a better player.

“In November and December, I was heavily criticised and that is what the game is about. I’m not perfect but I think that the biggest thing is that I want to improve every time,” he said.

“I’m very happy that the coaching crew gave me the needed confidence to play and I’m trying to pay them back with good performances.”Well, Troost-Ekong is not new to criticisms and handling them.

In 2015, he was told by former Nigeria coach, Sunday Oliseh, that he and his defensive partner Leon Balogun, who also has a European mother like the Watford man, were too soft to play against highly physical African strikers.

“That (Oliseh’s comments) upset me because one of my traits as a player is that I am someone who does not back away from anyone. I am not the most skilful, but I know what I am good at,” he added.

But now it is difficult to describe the athletic, rugged and hard-as-nails defender, who adds a touch of physicality to his game as ‘soft,’ African and European strikers can attest to that.

Wednesday’s win over the Wild Dogs ensured the Eagles — despite Eguavoen ringing eight changes to the side that played the first two games — are the only side at the AFCON with a 100 per cent record, winning all three group games.

“It’s a delight to make a statement with three wins in three games at the tournament," Troost-Ekong said after the game.

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