Former Nigeria goalkeeper Ike Shorunmu believes Deportivo La Coruna goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho, has the qualities to become the Super Eagles’ first choice at the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Uzoho is the third choice at the struggling Spanish side. He made the headlines in October after he became the youngest foreign player in the history of La Liga. The former Golden Eaglets keeper made his La Liga debut at 18 years and 352 days. He however returned to the bench after two matches.
Eagles coach Gernot Rohr handed Uzoho a national team call up for the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier against Algeria in Constantine and the friendly against Argentina in Krasnodar, Russia.
The two matches were played earlier this month. The invitation was Uzoho’s first since he won the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Uzoho made his full international debut on November 14, as a 46th minute replacement for Daniel Akpeyi in the friendly against Argentina, which the Eagles won 4-2. Uzoho kept a clean sheet in the match.
And Shorunmu, who represented Nigeria at the Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup, told our correspondent during the week that Uzoho has the qualities to be Eagles first choice despite his age.
The former Basel keeper said Uzoho has a good command of his goal area and positioned himself well to make some good saves as was seen in the Argentina match. He however called for more matches for the young keeper to build and test his confidence ahead of the World Cup.
“With what I saw him do against Argentina, I believe Uzoho is good enough to be Eagles number one at the World Cup if the coaches find him fit for the role,” he said.
“As a former keeper, I saw the qualities of a good keeper in him. He has a good command of his area and communicates well with his defenders. He also positioned himself well so that he could make some good saves. He is a young keeper and has many more years ahead of him, so he will learn with more matches and improve as he gets the playing time.”
Shorunmu said Uzoho’s presence in the team will keep the other keepers – Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Daniel Akpeyi – on their toes ahead of the World Cup.
He said, “That Akpeyi made some mistakes does not mean he is totally a bad goalkeeper likewise the fact that Ezenwa was not impressive against Algeria doesn’t mean he should be dropped from the team.
“The two have their areas of strength but with the way Uzoho performed against Argentina, they will have to work on their own areas of weaknesses to ensure that they stay ahead of him. This gives a healthy rivalry in the team.
“The goalkeeper is a very sensitive member of the team. If all the other members do well and he doesn’t do well, the team will suffer for it. A keeper can ensure that a team wins a match if he is determined to do so. The best keepers have to make it to the World Cup for the team to succeed.
“Currently, the three keepers need to be tested more in matches to ensure that the best one of them gets the starting shirt.”
The former Shooting Stars number one also said the calls for the return of Lille goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, were unnecessary.
Shorunmu, who Enyeama deputised at the Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup, said the 2013 African Cup of Nations winner should be allowed to make his decision to either return to the national team or stay out of it.
He said, “Enyeama should be allowed to make a public decision on his intention to either return to the Eagles, where he left of his own will, or to remain out of it. The team have been on a good run in his absence so, if he stays out, it will not affect their performance.
“If he is forced by the coaches and fans to return to the team – against his own free will – it may spell doom for the team. The keepers in the team are battling to do well and I believe they will get better with more matches before the World Cup.”
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