Kelechi Nwakali made his official debut for the Nigeria senior side on Tuesday, taking part in a 2-1 win over Liberia.
Nwakali started the match for Nigeria, after missing out on the squad for their match against Seychelles last week. He played around 60 minutes before coming off for Samuel Kalu in the second half.
Our starting line up against Liberia.
Ikechukwu Ezenwa, John Ogu(C), Jamilu Collins, Ndidi Wilfred, Semi Ajayi, Oghenekaro Etebo, Kelechi Nwakali, Henry Onyekuru, Simeon Nwankwo, Joel Obi, Chidozie Awaziem.#SoarSuperEagles.
— 🇳🇬 Super Eagles (@NGSuperEagles) September 11, 2018
With any luck, this represents the first step towards Nwakali receiving a work permit to play for Arsenal. The best way to get a permit is to play a high percentage of your country’s matches, with the exact percentage necessary depending on your country’s position in the FIFA world rankings.
Right now, Nigeria are 49th in the rankings. Assuming they remain between 31st and 50th, Nwakali would have to appear in 75% of their matches for the next two years. That’s a difficult ask, but his game against Liberia is a good first step.
Plus, the more games he plays, the more likely Arsenal would be able to successfully appeal for a permit, even if he doesn’t reach the targets and their initial application is rejected.
For now, the 20-year-old will return to Porto, where he’s spending the season on loan. So far he’s playing for their second team, Porto B, but we’ll see if that changes as the season goes on.