Peter Rufai fears a lack of top-class goalkeeper could prove to be Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr’s undoing at the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Daniel Akpeyi, Francis Uzoho and Dele Ajiboye have represented the country at different tournaments since first choice keeper Carl Ikeme was diagnosed with acute Leukaemia in July.
With Ikeme ruled out of the trip to the Russia where the Super Eagles will make their sixth World Cup appearance, Rohr has been racking his brain in search for an answer for his team’s goalkeeping crisis to realise his dream of making a strong statement in the Eurasian nation.
And former Nigeria keeper Rufai has suggested taking the keepers to the “jungle” as a possible solution to the matter.
Speaking with our correspondent at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos recently, the Tunisia ’94 Africa Cup of Nations winner claimed none of the keepers in the national team is ready for the world’s football showpiece yet.
The former Deportivo La Coruna keeper, who represented Nigeria at the USA ’94 and France ’98 World Cups, insisted the keepers lack the consistency necessary to inspire confidence in a team at a big tournament like the World Cup.
“They are good keepers but none of them has been consistent,” Rufai popularly called Dodo Manyana said.
“Football has changed a lot and I don’t think our keepers have the experience to play at the World Cup.
“We need to take them to the jungle to toughen them, to get the best out of them, because they are going to play against some of the best players in the world.”
The former Lokeren shot-stopper added, “By taking them to the jungle, I mean we should involve them in a series of matches at club level to toughen them.
“National team matches are not enough to assess a keeper; they are few unlike club games.
“We should start now by ensuring that the keepers we have in mind for the World Cup are having rigorous training before the World Cup.
“I’m worried about the national team’s goalkeeping department but I believe we can have top-class keepers for the World Cup if we encourage them to work hard.”
Rufai said he would support any keeper picked by Rohr as his first choice in Russia, saying “they are all good keepers”.
“Any of them (Ezenwa, Akpeyi, Uzoho and Ajiboye) is good enough to be our number keeper at the World Cup,” he said.
“The coach should be allowed to decide who our first choice keeper is because he is the one in charge of the team.”
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