Super Eagles 2018 number one goalkeeper Francis Uzoho returned to action for his club in Cyprus this week after a long injury layoff to pile more pressure on net-minders who have hurstled to usurp him as Nigeria’s first choice.
Uzoho's APOEL defeated PAEEK 4-0 in a Cypriot Cup game on Wednesday night.
The 21 year old – having successfully wrestled that starting slot from beleaguered Daniel Akpeyi after Nigeria’s painful last gasp semi-final loss to Algeria in the 2019 Afcon – kept in 3 games for the Super Eagles before succumbing to a painful injury against Brazil on October 2019 having landed awkwardly.
In his absence, Akpeyi was reluctantly returned for 2 Afcon qualifiers whilst Okoye was enthusiastically emplaced for 2 friendlies.
The Orlando Pirates man conceded 4 goals against lowly oppositions whilst Okoye conceded 2 goals against tough teams. It has to be said that the goals conceded by Akpeyi were in competitive fixtures.
But I guess the key questions are: was Uzoho’s absence felt and will he be expected to walk straight into Super Eagles starting 11?
Before Uzoho got injured, he had conceded 3 goals in his last 2 Super Eagles games which is mildly consistent with the number of goals conceded by others in his absence. Already, I hear shouts in some corners that Uzoho’s goals were conceded against behemoths Ukraine and Brazil.
Too true, I’d say.
However, I don’t think that Uzoho has an automatic passage to a starting slot in the Super Eagles all the same.
Akpeyi’s club form and years of experience can’t just be tossed overboard. I just watched clips of Okoye’s saves against ADO Den Haag in the Dutch Cup played yesterday and the lad was impressive, as he was for Nigeria against Algeria and Tunisia.
Matthew Yakubu might not have had the game time for Nigeria in October friendlies as allegedly promised by Rohr, he nonetheless remains a viable Super Eagles option.
Alampasu earned a recall to the national team for October friendlies but he has somewhat lost his way in club football.
The 2013 under 17 world cup first choice goalkeeper last featured in the league on August 3rd in a 3:0 loss to Valmieras meaning he has now been on the bench (or even excluded from match day squads) for 11 games on the trot to date.
But his invitation to the national team for October friendlies means he is still considered an active Nigeria International.
The truth is that Nigeria now has viable decent goalkeeping options and I think they are all more or less at similar levels when it comes to goalkeeping capabilities.
I don’t see any Standout Performer.
So, any of Uzoho, Okoye, Akpeyi and Yakubu can be named in Nigeria’s starting 11 for November’s Afcon qualifiers.
My money though is on Okoye simply because he featured in the most recent Super Eagles matches where he gave a fine account of himself.
Although Uzoho is back playing club football, it might be deemed by national team handlers ‘too early’ to rush him back to national team football.
For me, I think Akpeyi will be a ‘squad player’ whilst Yakubu will be considered if any of Okoye, Uzoho or Akpeyi becomes unavailable.
Alampasu’s declining club fortunes makes him an outlier while Osigwe will need any of Okoye, Akpeyi, Uzoho or Yakubu to be inactive club-wise or unavailable for any reason, to have a look in.
Ezenwa continues to be a victim of a wretched and poorly managed Nigeria Professional Football League which will make him sidelined for national team duties for the time being.
However things pan out for any of the net-minders, it is safe to say that the Super Eagles no longer have a goalkeeping crisis.
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