Nigeria’s Super Eagles have always been blessed with hugely talented and exceptional goalkeepers such as Peter Rufai, Emmanuel Okala, Ike Shorounmu and Vincent Enyeama who helped the country win many laurels in the past.
In recent times, though, the goalkeeping department has been a major source of worry to the Super Eagles, most especially under the tutelage of incumbent manager, Gernot Rohr.
Ahead of the team’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying double header with Sierra Leone next month, Complete Sports’ reporter, Oluyemi Ogunseyin takes a good look at some of Nigeria’s shot-stoppers.
Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, S/Africa)
Date of birth/Age: Aug 3, 1986 (33)
Daniel Akpeyi bounced back in style after his unimpressive display at the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Egypt where Nigeria finished third particularly with an error against Algeria in the semi-final which saw Riyad Mahrez score a late free-kick.
Akpeyi has been in impressive form for Kaizer Chiefs this season, keeping eight clean-sheets in 17 appearances to help his club stay on top of the South African Soccer Premier League standings.
However, the 33-year-old made a costly error against Maritzburg United in a recent league encounter which saw Kaizer Chiefs lose 2-1 and this has led to a barrage of criticism from pundits and football followers alike.
Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Heartland, Nigeria)
Date of birth/Age: Oct 16, 1988 (31)
Ikechukwu Ezenwa has never really been the first-choice goalkeeper for the Super Eagles as he has always had to play second fiddle but going into next month’s AFCON qualifiers, he is doing well.
The 31-year-old has also seemingly disclosed his readiness for the two games against Sierra Leone with his performances for Heartland in recent times which has seen him keep six clean-sheets in ten matches.
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Ezenwa said: “Six clean sheets out of ten matches is unbelievable, It gives me a lot of confidence going into the National team camp. I know it’s not always easy, but it is always great to go into the Super Eagles camp while in top form.”
Maduka Okoye (Fortuna Dusseldorf, Germany)
Date of birth/Age: Aug 28, 1999 (20)
Maduka Okoye gives Nigeria a glimmer of hope as he has been promoted to the senior team of Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga from Fortuna Dusseldorf II in the German Regionalliga West.
Okoye who made his national team debut when the Super Eagles drew 1-1 with Brazil in a friendly last year has made 13 German Regionalliga West appearances for Fortuna this season from which he has only one clean-sheet while conceding 26 goals.
The 20-year-old was, however, last in goal in a German Regionalliga West encounter which saw Fortuna play out a 2-2 draw with Bonner SC at the Sportpark Nord on 26 January, 2020.
Francis Uzoho (Omonia Nicosia, Cyprus)
Date of birth/Age: Oct 28, 1998 (21)
Francis Uzoho who plays at Cypriot First Division club, Omonia Nicosia on loan from Deportivo La Coruna of Spain is close to
making a return from a career-threatening injury he suffered over four months ago.
Uzoho who had regained form actually suffered the severe external meniscus and hip injury in the Super Eagles’ 1-1 international friendly draw with Brazil on October 13, 2019 in Singapore.
Before picking up the injury, though, the 21-year-old had made five league appearances for Omonia Nicosia from which he had kept three clean-sheets while conceding four goals.
Austin Ejide (Hapoel Hadera, Israel)
Date of birth/Age: Apr 8, 1984 (35)
Austin Ejide is another goalkeeper who has never really held down the number one position for the Super Eagles of Nigeria despite having so far had as many as 33 international caps.
Ejide is, however, the first-choice goalie for Hapoel Hadera in the Israeli first division where he has kept eleven clean-sheets in 25 appearances this season while conceding 26 goals.
The 35-year-old who played his first match for Nigeria almost two decades ago has, however, not been a part of the Nigerian national team set-up in the last six years.
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