Super Eagles’ head coach, Gernot Rohr has surprisingly kept faith with Francis Uzoho as the national team’s first-choice goalkeeper despite making just one appearance for his Cypriot club, Anorthosis Famagusta in almost two months.
In February 2019, Uzoho moved on loan to Anorthosis, in the search of regular football in the run-up to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. After making his debut for the club, concerns were raised about his health certificate.
As a result, Anorthosis have deducted 9 points, which they appealed. The club’s deduction appeal was rejected, although Uzoho’s appeal against his personal penalty of a one-match ban and €1,000 fine was successful.
Rohr’s insistence on using the Nwangele, Imo State-born shot-stopper in spite of his lack of match fitness cost the Eagles a clean sheet against a Seychelles side that is populated by chefs, labourers and part-time workers.
After the Eagles took the lead in Asaba with Odion Ighalo’s strike from the penalty spot, the Pirates equalised following the young goalie’s howler. Uzoho rushed out of his area to punch a free-kick but spilt the ball and Rody Melanie slotted in his effort into an empty net.
The German tactician refused to blame the ex-Eaglets’ reserve goalkeeper for his costly mistake in Friday’s 3-1 win against Seychelles and in defending Uzoho, Rohr tacitly admitted that he is gambling with the emotions of millions of soccer loving Nigerians by fielding a goalkeeper who is not stable physically and mentally.
Said he “The goalkeeper (Uzoho) isn’t playing so much for his club due to an administrative problem,” Rohr said at a Press Conference in Asaba.
“We wanted to see him play again and this was the opportunity for us. Don’t forget he performed well at the World Cup.”
“He made a mistake against Seychelles. This kind of games are very difficult,” the experienced gaffer concluded.
Rohr is not helping Uzoho by fielding him in international matches when is unfit and rusty not even when the player has admitted that he’s caught up in something bigger than him in the Health certificate scandal in Cyprus.
Uzoho joined Anorthosis Famagusta on Deadline Day of the January transfer window and featured in the fixture against Apollon Limassol 24 hours after his arrival in Cyprus – keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 victory.
After the fixture, Limassol filed a protest questioning the validity of the Eagles World Cup keeper’s Health Certificate.
Uzoho – the protest said – arrived Cyprus at 16.05 local time and the KOA, where the certificate would have been issued, closed at 14.30.
The protest was upheld, the result of that fixture was overturned in favour of Limassol and Famagusta was docked a further 6 points. The Police were called in with the Nigerian fined 1000 Euros and given a one-match ban. Anorthosis’s deduction appeal was rejected, although Uzoho’s appeal against his personal penalty of a one-match ban and €1,000 fine was successful.
“I actually asked for the loan move (from Deportivo La Coruna) so I can be playing more regularly and be very ready for the AFCON. I arrived with good expectations and in that first match, I showed my qualities.
“Now I am experiencing a situation that has nothing to do with me. I played a game and then the next thing I am hearing things about documents and getting Police invitations. In my very short career, I have never experienced anything like this. I am totally confused”.
Already, ex-Nigerian internationals like Emma Okocha has tasked Rohr to get a worthy reinforcement in goal following the struggles to properly replace retired goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama.
The ex-Enugu Rangers midfielder who was part of the national team at the 1990 edition of the AFCON was particularly critical of Nigeria’s options in between the sticks, opining that the country’s handlers can get better goaltenders who can compete with first choice Francis Uzoho, judging by his latest blunder against Seychelles.
“The current crop of goalkeepers do not compare to the likes of Emmanuel Okala, Peter Rufai, Best Ogedegbe, Peter Fregene and Vincent Enyeama who were our match winners during their days.
“These are good goalkeepers that you can always count on to save matches for us. Even when an opponent has beaten everyone, he finds it hard to get past the goalie.
“That has been the tradition of our goalkeeping if you go down memory lane. Nowadays, it seems everything has changed.
”Uzoho’s errors since the last World Cup are simply becoming unacceptable,” he said
There is a football dictum that says players and coaches are as good as their last matches but in the case of Uzoho, he may be a good goalkeeper having a captured the No 1 jersey after Carl Ikeme was diagnosed with Leukemia but his last game suggests that he needs to be dropped for a goalkeeper who is playing regularly for his club.
If Rohr remains defiant on the calls for him to drop Uzoho, Nigerians should brace up for more horrendous mistakes from the humble lad because reports emanating from Cyprus indicate that he may not be in between the sticks for Anorthosis until the end of the season in May when his loan deal will expire and he’s able to move to another club.
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