The sharp decline in the international career of Brighton and Hove Albion defender Leon Balogun with the senior national team of Nigeria came as a surprise to many considering how well he made the team defend the past two years.
Many will say the decision was based on his lack of game time at Brighton but one point to note is that he wasn’t that much a regular at Mainz 05 as well but kept his national team spot and excelled when he gets to play.
So what went wrong at the AFCON? According to a team source the coach unlike before where Balogun was his sole option due to the level he was playing in Germany as opposed to Kenneth Omeruo who was on loan in Turkey and Chidozie Awaziem who found it hard to make inroads into the first team of FC Porto.
With Omeruo cementing his spot at Leganes in the Laliga the season before the AFCON, the coach didn’t hesitate to drop Balogun even though he had his doubts on pairing Omeruo with Ekong. However the both players proved the manager right with two crucial goals that ended as the match winner.
Omeruo netted against Guinea while Ekong scored against South Africa in the second group game and quarter final respectively. Sandwiched in between their goals was Balogun’s error in the 0-2 defeat suffered against Madagascar.
The demotion to third choice central defender was something Balogun was beginning to accept until the last friendly game where Semi Ajayi was preferred to him in central defence in the absence of Omeruo in the starting lineup for the friendly game against Ukraine.
Ajayi was coming on the back of a strong start to life in the English Championship where he has excelled at West Brom following his move in the summer. He further cemented his growing legacy with another goal over the weekend while with every passing game Balogun isn’t close to making the matchday squad of Brighton.