• Agharaye Tseyi

Nigeria Goalkeeping crisis, way forward ?

Francis Uzoho for a while has been the most consistent goal keeper for the Eagles, considering the option we have at the moment, Uzoho is far better than the rest.



Against Brazil in Nigeria last outing he landed awkwardly after going up for a cornerback and colliding with Brazil's Casemiro, it was instantly obvious to Nigeria's goalkeeper that something had gone very wrong.






The goalkeeper immediately started taking off his gloves, and it was clear from that action alone that his day was done. What neither Uzoho nor the rest of us knew was exactly how long he would be absent from football.

Nigerians waited with bated breath, with the youngster having just recently returned to a good spell of form following a mistake in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying that had seen him demoted.




Rohr took over the Nigerian reins with Carl Ikeme as his No. 1. Ikeme was out of action soon after, when he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. Daniel Akpeyi was brought in, did well for one game against Algeria then faltered against South Africa.




Rohr handing the reins to Ikechukwu Ezenwa, before the latter was eventually replaced by then-teenager Uzoho ahead of and into the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

This goalkeeper instability was identified as a major problem for Nigeria heading into the Africa Cup of Nations, one that could make or break their title hopes, and that proved to be a well-founded fear.

Nigeria lost to Algeria in the semifinals, due to what was largely seen as a goalkeeping error by Akpeyi. Uzoho was reinstalled for the bronze medal match, and he looked to be back on his best form through that game and afterwards. Until this injury.




And so Rohr returns to his goalkeeping merry-go-round, just when he and Nigerians were confident that a solution had been found.

The immediate good news is that 20-year-old Maduka Okoye, who was thrown in to replace Uzoho, looked steady and unflappable for the near-half hour he was on the pitch.

True, he was not called upon to make any outstanding saves, but his basics looked good, and his confidence was refreshing for a player thrown into the deep end on international debut. Against Brazil, no less.





Okoye's performance left Rohr impressed, so much that the coach suggested the youngster could be the way forward.

"We appreciate his performance," Rohr said in an interview. "It is not easy to come in at this moment against such an opponent. We will continue to work hard with him."



The coach will now have to return to searching for a third goalkeeper. Especially after explaining that he did not send Ezenwa in because the Heartland goalie who was the effective No. 2 had not played a competitive game in months.



Nigeria needs Uzoho. So does his club, AC Omonia in Cyprus. But both need him 100% healed and ready to play out the long career ahead of him.



Six to nine months may seem a long time now, but in the broader scheme of things it is almost inconsequential. Uzoho is only 20, and has plenty of time ahead of him. He should be allowed to take all the time he needs, even it is a year, to get back to full fitness.

Rohr, meanwhile, must go back to searching for quality, game-playing goalkeepers with AFCON and World Cup qualifiers due to start in less than a month and continue throughout next year.

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