In anticipation of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, which will take place in Ivory Coast, the Super Eagles of Nigeria are still struggling with goalkeeper instability.
Prior to this, Nigeria was home to some of Africa’s top goalkeepers, including Vincent Enyeama, Ike Shorunmu, Best Ogedengbe, Peter Rufai, and Alloy Agu.
According to the Clusterchannel, these goalkeepers dominated for many years of their careers.
For instance, prior to his retirement from the game in 2015, Enyeama was without a doubt the Super Eagles’ best goalkeeper for more than ten years.
The Super Eagles haven’t had a reliable first-choice goalkeeper since he retired.
Since Enyeama put up his glove, Nigeria has experimented with over a dozen goalkeepers, including Dele Alampasu, Oladele Ajiboye, Daniel Akpeyi, Carl Ikeme, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Maduka Okoye, and Francis Uzoho.
However, none of them have been able to hold a particular place in the hearts of Super Eagles supporters or become part of Nigerian football legends as of yet.
However, the issue remains unresolved. Indeed, the situation is growing more dire and worrying as the 2023 AFCON approaches.
The Clusterchannel reports that Uzoho, who plays for Omonia in Cyprus, Olorunleke Ojo of Enyimba, Adebayo Adeleye of Hapoel Jerusalem, and Okoye, who plays for Udinese, were the current goalkeepers invited by Super Eagles head coach Jose Peseiro for their recent international friendly matches against Saudi Arabia and Mozambique.
The Super Eagles were placed among the host Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea Bissau in the 2023 AFCON final draw, which took place yesterday.
But no side with a subpar goalkeeping unit can claim to be ready to win the AFCON.
The Super Eagles are now facing their biggest goalkeeping dilemma in the senior national football team’s existence in Nigeria.
Goalie Daniel Akpeyi is still held accountable by some Nigerians for the Super Eagles’ 2019 AFCON disappointment.
They thought that Enyeama could not have been defeated by Rhiyad Marhez’s free kick, which gave Algeria a 2-1 victory against Nigeria in the semifinal. Rhiyad Marhez was a former winger for Manchester City.
Because of Akpeyi’s placement behind the wall he set up, Mahrez was able to easily and quickly poke in the decider.
Also, goalie Okoye’s lack of focus was cited as the reason for Nigeria’s 1-0 loss to Tunisia at the 2022 AFCON in Cameroon.
When it counted most, Okoye failed, and the Super Eagles—who were deemed the strongest team in the group stages and the tournament favorites—were destroyed in the Round of 16 by a Tunisia squad that was ranked second in their group and devastated by COVID-19.
However, considering the bench’s tactical missteps, Okoye’s error might not have been overstated.
In a similar vein, on March 29, 2022, a goalkeeping error—this time by Uzoho—cost Nigeria their place in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which was won by Argentina headed by Lionel Messi in Qatar.
Thomas Partey’s low drive from outside the area went under Uzoho’s knees and in, giving Ghana the crucial away goal that guaranteed them a spot in the World Cup ahead of Nigeria.
Again, Uzoho’s mistake handed Saudi Arabia the lead in the most recent international friendly match against Mozambique.
When Mozambique scored the first goal against him, the 25-year-old was still caught off guard.
Unexpectedly, following his mistakes against Mozambique and Saudi Arabia, respectively, coach Peseiro stood up for Uzoho.
Peseiro blamed the Super Eagles’ goalkeepers’ subpar performances on the constant assaults from Nigerians they faced while playing for the squad.
“When I arrived here, I remember I was told to change the goalkeeper,” the Portuguese stated. Everyone attacked them, so none of them felt comfortable when I spoke with them all. I am accountable for any faults they may make. I have to give Uzoho greater training next time.
According to Clusterchannel, goalkeeping mistakes made by the national side have increased to an alarming number, worrying football supporters and other stakeholders.
Speaking with Newsmen, Audu Ojo, the head coach of Dawaki Rangers, highlighted the importance of goalkeepers always learn from their predecessors when they get the opportunity to represent the team.
Ojo, who noted the importance of transition, insisted that the goalkeeping department is very unique in football and key for any team to win the competition.
“The goalkeeping department is a very unique department in football. Coaches, clubs need to take the goalkeeping department very seriously.
“Coaches need top clash goalkeeper trainers for their keepers and this is one of the reasons many quality goalkeepers are not discovered these days for the Super Eagles,” Ojo said.
When asked if the current goalkeepers in the Super Eagles squad are good enough to lead the team to victory in the 2023 AFCON in Ivory Coast, Ojo added, “First and foremost, we must not forget that a good goalkeeper is as good as his defence.
“So if the strikers are scoring goals yet the defence is drippy and the goalkeeper is allowing in goals, obviously the team will be at the mercy of the opponents.
“It does not mean that if the goalkeeper makes a mistake we should hang him. I believe Uzoho will learn from his mistakes.
“He needs encouragement because he will be a better goalkeeper going forward. I watched one of the matches he played against Manchester United in the Europa League; he was superb.”
“I believe with positive encouragement and the right trainers to coach him, Uzoho can lead Nigeria to victory in Ivory Coast. But the team also needs to strengthen at the defense, midfield and also attack.
“One good thing with goalkeepers is that they improve and get better as they grow older,” he said.