Uzoho and Okoye Are Decent Goalkeepers
Although it might seem that we are scraping the barrel of goalkeepers available for Nigeria in the wake of yet another high profile mishap from beleaguered Uzoho, I think we are missing a wider systemic problem.
You see, in the last 18 months, Goalkeepers Francis Uzoho and Maduka Okoye have been peppered with bitter criticisms from fans due to performances that contributed to painful losses. From the Afcon semi-final loss to Tunisia to the World Cup qualifier failure to Ghana and unacceptable friendly outcomes against Algeria and Saudi Arabia , these net-minders have received the lion share of blame.
Even though I concur that Okoye and Uzoho could have done better on those occasions, the problem, I believe lies beyond these two lads.
For instance, what in the 4-4-2 formation makes it susceptible to such damaging long range strikes that these goalkeepers find so difficult to deal with?
Also, why do the Super Eagles concede needless free kicks in dangerous areas towards the dying embers?
Plus, why aren't these goalkeepers given adequate training to anticipate and deal with these long range strikes within the framework of the 4-4-2 formation they have been planted in?
From Ekong to Balogun, Omeruo, Bassey, Akpoguma and Awaziem, it is open secret that the majority of our center backs are error prone. But few fans subject these defenders to 1/10 of the abuse directed at Okoye, Uzoho and Daniel Akpeyi before them.
So, when you consider the totality of a confluence of factors, it is reasonable to assume that any man brave enough to lace the goalkeeping gloves for the Super Eagles is almost certainly being set up for ridicule, ruin and regrets.
And someone who knows about ridicule all too well is former number one Daniel Akpeyi.
He endured years of abuse and insults throughout his Super Eagles career for negligible shortcomings.
After the 2019 Afcon semi-final loss to Algeria in which, suprise-suprise! he was again scapegoated, Akpeyi said: "I take the blame for everything because it is what it is. As a goalkeeper, they won't look at what you have done before. I remember they had a couple of chances in the first half that I made one-on-one saves. But those ones won't count in people's eyes because no matter how much a goalkeeper saves, it is the one mistake he makes that people remember."
In the last 2 years, Okoye and Uzoho have produced some fine saves for Nigeria but, like Akpeyi said, no one remembers those. It is the negative events that stays in the mind like a disease.
To be clear, I have always advocated looking beyond Okoye and Uzoho to mind the post for Nigeria because I want to believe there should be more highly skilled and technically grounded goalkeepers available to Nigeria. But the level and nature of vitriol and abuse directed at Uzoho and Okoye are unprecedented, unfair and unacceptable.
If the scouts find better goalkeepers, fine, if not, I will stick with and support the ones we currently have. I intend to criticize them if their performance calls for it but it will be in moderation.
We have to know where to draw the line!