Nigeria have a rich history of producing great goalkeepers in the mould of Emmanuel Okalla, Best Ogedengbe, and Peter Rufai, and football lovers in the country may be witnessing the dawn of another fantastic shot-stopping era
Head coach Gernot Rohr believes that the talents and quality exhibited by the duo of Francis Uzoho and Maduka Okoye mean the Super Eagles no longer have a problem in the goalkeeping department.
The Franco-German tactician also confirmed that South Africa-based Daniel Akpeyi and NPFL star Ikechukwu Ezenwa – both over 30 years old – remain part of the national setup.
Vincent Enyeama, who was Nigeria’s last great goalkeeper, retired from the national side in 2015 after a fallout with former Super Eagles coach, Sunday Oliseh.
When Rohr arrived, Nigeria had the experience and refined skills of Carl Ikeme, who was in goal when Nigeria kicked off the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualification campaign with an excellent 2-1 away win in Zambia in October 2016.
However, trouble started after Ikeme was forced to retire from the beautiful game after the former Wolverhampton goalkeeper was diagnosed with acute leukaemia.
Though Ezenwa and Akpeyi did well to help the Super Eagles qualify for Russia 2018, neither convinced Rohr with his displays, and the gaffer settled for youngster Uzoho at the tournament proper.
But an injury to the APOEL Nicosia gloveman opened the door for Okoye to stake his claim as Nigeria’s number one, with the Sparta Rotterdam goalie appearing between the posts in each of the Eagles’ last four matches.
And with Ezenwa failing to impress in the local league, Rohr is confident that 22-year-old Uzoho and 21-year-old Okoye, ably supported by Kaizer Chiefs’ Akpeyi, will solve any lingering goalkeeping problems in the national team.
“Ezenwa, unfortunately, did not play the last two matches with Heartland, we’ll see and there’s still Akpeyi (Daniel) he’s doing very well with his club in South Africa,” Rohr told Brila.
“The future is the two young goalkeepers plus Akpeyi and we’ll see if the local one can come also. We do not have a big problem with this position.”
The Super Eagles are scheduled to meet the Squirrels of the Benin Republic and the Crocodiles of Lesotho in March in the final group games of the 2021 Afcon-qualifying series.