• Latest News

    Saturday, October 21, 2023

    Super Eagles Goalkeeper Crisis: Peseiro’s Dilemma

    Before now, Nigeria was a country noted for having some of the best goalkeepers in Africa. It is a long history that is littered with some of the biggest names in the game. Sam Henshaw Ibiam, popularly known as The Black Magnet during his active days, was Nigeria’s pioneer goalkeeper.

    He kept for the national football team who were known as the “1949 UK Tourists”. He was followed by the likes of Inua Lawal Rigogo, The Cat, Peter Fregene, Joe Erico, Emmanuel Okala, Best Ogedegbe, Peter Rufai, Wilfred Agbonavbare, Ike Shorunmu, Alloy Agu and Vincent Enyeama. These goalkeepers occupy special places in Nigerian football folklore.

    Writing on the extraordinary performances of Rigogo, a blogger, FantaXtik SMM submitted: “It was actually the former President of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkurumah, that named Rigogo “The Flying Cat.” After he watched Rigogo display some incredible somersaults, flying from pole to pole to the extent that the Ghanaian national team couldn’t even score him a single goal in 1964… in his spellbound amazement, Nkurumah named Rigogo, The Flying Cat. That was in the 60s and early 70s.

    After the exploits of Rigogo, Fregene and Erico, the 80s ushered in a fresh breath when Emmanuel Okala and Best Ogedegbe mounted the saddle. Okala was of Enugu Rangers, while Ogedegbe was of IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan. The rivalry between the two was akin to that between the two clubs they belonged to. While Okala reigned supreme for club and country in the late seventies, especially during the 1978 World Cup and the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, Ogedegbe was prominent during the AFCON tournament proper, which Nigeria won eventually, for the first time in history.

    Peter Rufai, regarded as one of the finest, crowned his sterling career with the 1994 AFCON trophy and two World Cup appearances with his country. Same goes for Vincent Enyeama, who remains as the last Nigerian goalkeeper whose presence between the sticks exuded stability and confidence in the defence line. The legendary Super Eagles stopper amassed 101 appearances for Nigeria between 2002 and 2015, winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013. Since his departure in 2015, Nigeria’s goalkeeping department has been inconsistent and fits and starts.

    There were flashes of hope during the brief period of Carl Ikeme, the former Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper whose promising career was cut short after he was diagnosed with life-threatening Leukemia in 2017. The disease denied him a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

    Since Ikeme left, the situation with the goalkeeping department of the Super Eagles has remained coaches’ nightmare and a horrifying journey through the unknown for Nigerian football fans.

    Former coach of the national team, Gernot Rohr, with all his assistants could not fix the problem before he left. Rohr stuck with Francis Uzoho who, from nowhere became Nigeria’s number one ahead of Maduka Okoye and Daniel Akpeyi.

    What goalkeeping errors have cost Nigeria since 2019:

    Most Nigerians still blame the Super Eagles failure in the 2019 AFCON on goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi. Rhiyad Marhez ‘free kick that earned Algeria a 2-1 win over Nigeria in the semi-final could not have beaten Enyeama, some Nigerians argued. Akpeyi’s positioning behind the wall he arranged made it easy for the clever Algerian star to poke in the decider without a sweat.

    Nigeria’s defeat to Tunisia in the 2022 AFCON in Cameroon was blamed on Maduka Okoye’s loss of concentration. He was found wanting when it mattered most. And so, the Super Eagles that were declared the best team of the group stages and clear favourites to win the tournament got knocked out in the Round of 16, by a Covid19-ravaged Tunisia team that were second best in their group. But the goalkeeping error may not be over stretched going by the tactical blunders of the bench.

    Again, on March 29, 2022, under a hot afternoon sun in Abuja, another goalkeeping error, this time, by Francis Uzoho cost Nigeria the ticket to Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup. With the Super Eagles needing a win, of the slimmest margins to qualify for the World Cup, Thomas Partey’s early goal was conceded by a goalkeeper who was perhaps overwhelmed by the situation.

    The Arsenal midfielder received a pass from the left side and from outside the 18 yard box, he unleashed a right-footed effort which Uzoho failed to stop, as it sneaked through his legs for the vital away goal. Despite the spirited efforts of his team mates, the Ghanaians who had a clear match plan, worked hard to earn a 1-1 draw to deny the Super Eagles the glamour and glitz of FIFA 2022 Qatar World Cup. Again, the blunders of the Austin Eguavoen led bench were huge.

    In the recent international friendlies against Saudi Arabia and Mozambique, Uzoho’s howlers gave Saudi Arabia the opening goal. Their equalizer in the last minute of added time was also stoppable, although the blame on this cannot be entirely his as he deserved a better coverage from his defenders. He was still flatfooted against Mozambique when they scored the opener.

    Goalkeeping errors in the national team have become one too many and a major source of worry to many football fans and stakeholders. With the 2023 AFCON coming up in January in Ivory Coast, Nigerians remain worried over the prospects of taking Uzoho to the AFCON as Nigeria’s number one.

    Peseiro in defence of Uzoho, Okoye

    Surprisingly, coach Jose Peseiro has put up a very strong defence of his goalkeeper after his howlers in the friendlies against Saudi Arabia and Mozambique.

    Coach Jose Peseiro attributed the poor performances of Super Eagles goalkeepers to the barrage of attacks from Nigerians each time they kept for the team.

    He said the keepers were suffering from what he termed a crisis of confidence.

    I like our players when they make mistakes, it is my responsibility. The goalkeeper is never free or calm because of the people. I don’t know why they attack the goalkeepers every time.

    “Why don’t they attack the strikers when they lose the ball or miss to score when they get the chance to?”

    “When I arrived here, I remember I was told to change the goalkeeper. I spoke with all of them, no one felt comfortable because everybody attacked them. They could make mistakes, it is my responsibility. Next time, I need to train him better.”

    But former Nigeria youth international and Olympic gold medallist Dosu Joseph has blasted Peseiro. He expressed shock when he read the comments of Jose Peseiro, which suggested that there was no problem.

    Dosu said Peseiro’s statement that strikers miss goals, and are not criticised, meant he did not want his goalkeepers to be called out even when they make mistakes.

    “I am surprised that he is comfortable with what is happening, and his employers are not saying anything. Well, if NFF are comfortable with it, that’s fine,” Dosu remarked.

    “I also read that Uzoho himself said those Nigerians who are criticising him should come for trials in Europe and show how good they are. Maybe he is not happy with those who want him to be a better goalkeeper.

    “It is surprising how these present players respond to those who criticise them. If even former internationals are not qualified to correct them, then it is better to keep quiet.”

    Former Flying Eagles goalkeeper of the Saudi ’89 Dammam Miracle fame, Emeka Amadi is sympathetic with the Super Eagles goalkeepers. He said the barrage of attacks on Uzoho was not helpful at all.

    “It does not mean that if the goalkeeper makes a mistake we should crucify him. He will learn from his mistakes. He needs encouragement because he will be a better goalkeeper. He has all the traits of a good goalkeeper. Even De Gea, Manuel Neuer or Onana, they all make mistakes. We should not crucify what we have. No Matter how you look at it, even the person you want to put there cannot be above mistakes. If you emphasise too much on our goalkeepers mistakes, no matter who you bring, even if he is experienced and confident he will be afraid not to make mistakes and that is the worst thing to happen to a goalkeeper,” Amadi told Sports Vanguard.

    Former Green Eagles goalkeeper Emmanuel Okala has attributed the recent fumbles of the Super Eagles’ goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho, to the negligence of the team’s goalkeeper trainers. “As a goalkeeper trainer, you have a responsibility to train your keepers how to deal with set pieces, including free kicks. How to position themselves and arrange their defence line.”

    Ike Shorunmu, a former Nigeria great and former Super Eagles goalkeeper trainer would not want to comment on the issue when we called. However, in a chat with journalists in Uyo early this year, he called on goalkeepers in the domestic league to believe in themselves. Shorunmu said that the effects of an improved league would rub off on all departments of the national team, including goalkeeping.

    “The thing is, we cannot perform any magic at the moment. That is why we come down to the league to work more with the goalkeepers. We can have better goalkeepers in the national team.”

    He admitted that the worry being expressed by Nigerians was genuine. “For sure we need to improve our league and we need to believe in ourselves and our players. Life changes, and I don’t want to compare this time with our own time. We need to work with what we have now and do better with it.

    “I just want the home players to believe in themselves. We as coaches will do our part, but then the rest depends on the players. On the pitch, they are to deliver what they have been taught.”


    Tired after a 10-year wait to see the Super Eagles lift the AFCON title again, Nigerians want to see the technical crew perform their role of finding perfect hands to man the posts for the Super Eagles at the AFCON in January. Soccernet’s Ayomide Oguntimehin captured the mood, “pressure is starting to mount up for the head coach of the Super Eagles, as well as fears among the Nigerian football faithful on not losing their AFCON glory over the lapses that can be solved beforehand”.

    The writer went on to explore possible options. Oma Akatugba, a Europe-based Nigerian journalist told Oguntimehin that he had identified one Noah Atobulu and discussed with the Super Eagles head coach Jose Peseiro about the young goalkeeper. He wrote, “After the Mozambique game, Akatugba suggested a possible solution to the goalkeeping conundrum.” But who is Noah Atobulu?

    Noah Atobulu is a goalkeeper with Nigerian heritage. He has previously represented Germany at the youth level. Atobulu is a regular for Bundesliga side Freiburg. “He could provide competition for the Super Eagles’ goalkeeping role, especially when facing strong opponents like the Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau in the upcoming AFCON tournament.

    “They believe it could be challenging to convince him to switch to Nigeria due to his talent and prospects with the German national team,” Akatugna said, adding, “I promised to work on convincing him to change his nationality.”

    Another name that has come for mention is Arthur Okonkwo, an academy graduate of the famed Hale End of Arsenal. He is currently with EFL League Two club Wrexham. Okonkwo is on season-long loan from the Gunners to Wrexham, after Ben Foster announced his retirement from the game. The 21-year-old has been loaned out more than once, playing for both Sturm Graz in Austria and Crewe Alexandra in recent seasons.

    Instead of chasing goalkeepers of Nigerian descent in the diaspora, some Nigerians have suggested Israel based Adebayo Adeleye, a home-bred who moved to Israeli Premier League club Hapoel Jerusalem recently.

    Former U-20 goalkeeper Adebayo Adeleye is Nigeria’s best shot stopper in Europe so far this season, according to statistics website Tranfermarkt. Adeleye marked his first cap for the Eagles in their 3-2 win against the Leone Stars which sealed qualification to next year’s AFCON in Côte d’Ivoire.

    Although he has been invited severally to the national team camp, Francis Uzoho has been preferred by the selectors.

    While there is no doubt that he has been good in the colours of Hapoel Jerusalem, he has to replicate the same with the Super Eagles.

    In Super Eagles camp are other goalkeepers like Maduka Okoye and Ojo Olorunleke of Enyimba International of Aba. Emmanuel Daniel, once expected to succeed Vincent Enyeama, and Chijioke Aniagboso, who has shown promise but is yet to make his Super Eagles debut, are among the potential alternatives.

    Peseiro’s dilemma

    Peseiro’s dilemma is the time factor. Analysts are of the view that the coach would stick with his goalkeepers who have been with the team since 2020 as it could be counterproductive should a new goalkeeper be invited to the team. A goalkeeper’s role is beyond one’s ability to keep clean sheets. The role demands a huge responsibility and requires special skills; some natural while some acquired through training.

    One who has been with the team, integrated into the team and imbued the team’s chemistry and familiarise with his defence line is the one the coach would choose ahead of a new product who may find it tough to get used to the rest of the squad within one or two months.

    • Blogger Comments
    • Facebook Comments


    Item Reviewed: Super Eagles Goalkeeper Crisis: Peseiro’s Dilemma Rating: 5 Reviewed By: BrandIconImage
    Scroll to Top