The Super Eagles are set for another two games in this international break, kicking off their 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign with games against Lesotho and Zimbabwe.
While the three-time African champions are expected to dispatch these two teams, a lingering question on the mind of every fan is who will be in goal for the two games.
Super Eagles goalkeeping woes
This has been the case for every match since Vincent Enyeama retired from international duty in 2015.
Initially, it looked like Carl Ikeme would take over from the former Lille goalkeeper, but his time with the team was short after he was diagnosed with Leukaemia.
Following Ikeme’s enforced retirement, the Super Eagles have shuffled goalkeepers from time to time.
At one point, Ikechukwu Ezenwa was preferred in goal before Francis Uzoho took over briefly at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Daniel Akpeyi also had his fair share of time in goal before Okoye took over from him. Okoye looked like the man until that moment in AFCON 2021.
Since then, Uzoho has reclaimed the spot and looks likely to be in goal for the two games against Lesotho and Zimbabwe this week.
The 25-year-old has played in 12 of Nigeria’s last 14 games and has only missed one of the last six matches under Super Eagles manager Jose Peseiro.
Nigeria vs Lesotho: Peseiro playing with Uzoho fire
Barring any surprises, Peseiro will once again name Uzoho in goal for the two games. All coasts seem to be clear for the former Elche man, considering his two main rivals (Maduka Okoye and Adebayo Adeleye) are not in the squad.
However, Peseiro’s persistence with Uzoho has been criticised, which is rightly deserved. Uzoho has been in the national team set-up since 2017 but has never looked assured anytime he gets to play.
Peseiro is likely to stick with Uzoho for Nigeria’s game against Lesotho
There is no doubt that Nigeria has a goalkeeping crisis but Uzoho is not the answer. The 25-year-old has had numerous chances to make the position his own but has always committed one error after the other.
One of his high-profile errors came in Nigeria’s crucial World Cup playoff encounter against Ghana, yet he remains Peseiro’s trusted keeper.
While it may be true that the Super Eagles have no quality goalkeeper, Uzoho is the worst of the bunch.
The Nigerian currently plies his trade for Omonia Nicosia but has just one substitute appearance in the league for the club in the last 11 months.
To put it into context, Uzoho is a reserve goalkeeper for a club sitting in fifth position in a fifth-tier European league.
Yet, he is still Nigeria’s number one under Peseiro, a decision that is hard to understand. This should be an exciting period for the Super Eagles, given the quality the team has in attack.
However, the defence leaves much to be desired and Peseiro’s decision to stick with Uzoho has not helped matters.
Peseiro’s decision is even more surprising considering he said he would only select players playing at the highest level.
“The standard for anyone representing the Super Eagles must always be the highest,” these were some of the words the Portuguese tactician said after the last international break.
After another period of training and matches, with the team and staff united, we have reinforced various aspects and identified mistakes to be corrected. The standard for anyone representing the Super Eagles must always be the highest. pic.twitter.com/VbBJ7kGpVF
— Jose Peseiro (@JosePeseiro) October 17, 2023
However, his Uzoho gamble shows he is not a man of his word. Peseiro is over one year into his tenure as Nigeria’s coach, with the next four months crucial to his continuity.
These four months could be the final period of his Super Eagles career unless he drops Uzoho from the team and finds a proper replacement going into the two qualifiers, but most importantly, next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.