Four years after missing out on the Brazil 2014 World Cup due to injury, the dedicated and hardworking Elderson Echiejile has worked his way back into the Super Eagles team with as one of the few Experienced players who duly deserve the nod to be in Russia.
The AS Monaco left-back was disappointed after limping off before half-time during a World Cup 2014 warm-up game against Greece in Philadelphia, USA.
The Injury ruled him out of the FIFA Mundial, and the Nigeria Football Federation swiftly called up 22-year-old Ejike Uzoenyi as a replacement for the injured defender.
However, with the determination to get himself back on the World Cup stage, Echiejile was really instrumental during Nigeria’s qualification process for the 2018 World Cup.
He featured as a starter in seven of eight qualifying games until a late injury against Zambia at home that saw him replaced by new invitee Ola Aina.
Aina deputized well for Elderson in Nigeria’s dead rubber qualifier against Algeria and was rewarded with his place in the friendly against Argentina, but was substituted for the relatively unknown Russian-born Brian Idowu.
The Amkar Perm left-back was quick to make his mark, scoring on his debut against Argentina and won himself starting places in the next two friendly games, against Poland and Serbia.
Unfortunately for Idowu, and somewhat fortuitously for Echiejile, Idowu looked far better on his debut as he was a shadow of himself in those two subsequent fixtures.
Elderson’s experience is not his only unique value, but he’s also shown in every game for Nigeria during this qualifying series that he remains Nigeria’s only natural left-back and deserving to be the first choice.
Meanwhile, Coach Gernot Rohr mentioned Elderson among those he values the experience they bring to the team after calls for bringing back some former players, in his words:
“You have to respect what the former players have done in the past but be careful that you don’t try to bring them back because people think so,” said Rohr.
“We have big experience in captain John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and our left back Elderson, who is now playing in Belgium.”
The emergence of Brian Idowu of Amkar Perm has left many doubting the international future of the veteran left back, with the coach even admitting his satisfaction by starting Idowu in the Two friendly matches in March.
However, Rohr has named the 28-year-old among players he is banking on to bring their experience to bear on the team when Nigeria gets their World Cup campaign underway in June.
Echiejile,30, brings a massive experience of having won the African Cup of Nations and having spent over a decade in Europe, from France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and Turkey.
In January, after finding games hard to come by in Turkey, Echiejile returned to Belgium where he recently helped Cercle Brugge win the Championship division and also gain promotion to the Belgian Jupiler top flight.
Echiejile last featured for Cercle Brugge as they defeat Beerschot Wilrijk 3-1 in March to seal their return to the elite division after three years.
The on-loan defender featured all 90 minutes and was one of the stars of the game as he won two aerial balls, had 84 percent pass accuracy and won three important tackles in the encounter.
After the encounter, Echiejile spoke briefly with brila.net saying: “It was a good feeling and the game was exciting. I have been working hard and I hope to continue with my mind fully on the World Cup as the season wraps up,” he said.
I just think about the end of the season and to stay in good shape and form for the World Cup.”
Echiejile played for Turkish side Sivasspor at the start of the 2017/18 season before joining Cercle Brugge in January in search of regular football.
His credentials, recent achievements, Experience and with Ola Aina’s clear lack of experience, with the plenty uncertainties in Brian Idowu’s displays…
Echiejile duly deserves his position not just for his experience but to consolidate, to right many wrongs, to prove critics wrong and to show he still has a lot to offer at the World stage.
Elderson has made a total 53 international appearances for the Super Eagles and has two goals to his name.