Super Eagles boss Gernot Rohr surprised Nigerian fans with the inclusion of defender Jamilu Collins in the 23-man squad that went on to represent the nation at the ongoing 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
However, the SC Paderborn defender silenced critics when he made his debut against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa on Wednesday in the quarter-finals with a superb performance that made exciting Premier Soccer League winger Percy Tau irrelevant in the tie.
Jamilu is a defender who plays as a left-back but can also occupy the centre of defence or further forward on the left wing if required. With youth and pace, Jamilu’s contribution at both ends of the pitch helped the Super Eagles secure a semi-final ticket. He earned a lot of praise for keeping the notorious Percy Tau quiet on what was his competition debut for Nigeria.
The Kaduna-born player started his career in Nigeria at the famous Abuja Football College Academy. Since then, the defender has experienced a nomadic career which has included several failed loan spells at different clubs after he moved to Europe in 2012.
Following his move to Croatian side HNK Rijeka in 2012, he has gone on to have short-term loan spells at various clubs including NK Krka in the Slovenian PrvaLiga. A 2017 move to German third-division club Paderborn after a trial period culminated in promotion at the end of the season.
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Now playing in the German second division, Collins has started and completed several league matches for his Paderborn side at left-back and this earned an invite to the represent the Nigerian senior national team at the continental showdown in Egypt.
Collins was not picked for the team’s opening AFCON 2019 game against Burundi and was unfortunate to pick up an injury in the training session in preparation for the clash against Guinea.
Rohr was set to answer a lot of questions when he invited Collins straight to the starting line-up after being out due to an injury. The critics weren’t particularly wrong, as the left-back had failed to convince in several games for club and country. Also, Ola Aina, who was drafted into the team in place of Collins, had been arguably the best player in the Super Eagles squad at the competition.
Back to fitness, Rohr slotted him straight into the starting XI against South Africa and he didn’t disappoint. He was solid in defence and held his line very well. This was his best game for the Super Eagles.
The fans of the Super Eagles had been wary of facing South African star Percy Tau as the winger had punished Nigeria on more than one occasion. The flamboyant winger scored goals against Nigeria both home and away during the qualification phases of the tournament. Collins’ performance on wednesday night almost made him a cult hero overnight.
The timing of Collins’ invitation appears to suit him best, as he could cement his spot as the starting left-back for the Super Eagles and possibly provide the natural width and balance that the Nigerian team has lacked since Taye Taiwo stopped playing.
Do you think the Super Eagles have found the left-back that will serve the team for a long time? Do you think Jamilu Collins should play ahead of Ola Aina in the team for the rest of AFCON 2019? Join the conversation in the comment section and leave your thoughts with us.