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Uzoho, other keepers who crushed hopes of Nigerians

The role of a football goalkeeper is crucial to the team’s success. One of the most prominent roles of a goalkeeper is to prevent the…

The role of a football goalkeeper is crucial to the team’s success. One of the most prominent roles of a goalkeeper is to prevent the opposing team from scoring while being responsible for organising and commanding his goal area.

Despite the critical roles goalkeepers play, the history of Nigerian football is replete with stories of average keepers with underwhelming performances that cost the country continental and global laurels.

At the moment, the most despised and vilified member of the Super Eagles is no doubt their number one goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho. As the major weak link in the team, no match is played without Uzoho’s gaffe. His critics say he is allergic to what in football is called clean-sheet.

Nigerians of the present generation will forever remember Uzoho’s blunder on March 22, 2022 which cost Nigeria the ticket to 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

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He failed to save Thomas Partey’s low shot from outside the box as it sneaked through his legs for the vital away goal that ensured Ghana qualified for the World Cup ahead of Nigeria.

Again, in the recent international friendlies against Saudi Arabia and Mozambique, Uzoho’s error gave Saudi Arabia the opening goal. To compound his woes, he committed elementary goalkeeping errors against Lesotho and Zimbabwe in the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers.

However, it is imperative to note that before what is commonly known as ‘Uzo-basket’ there were other goalkeepers who broke the hearts of Nigerian football fans at one time or the other.

Trust Sports, therefore, takes a look at some of the goalkeeping errors by Uzoho’s predecessors that dashed the hopes of millions of Nigerians. They did their best, but like Uzoho, it wasn’t good enough to make them popular with the fans.

Willy Agbonabare

An idol in Spain and a champion in Nigeria, ex Rayo Vallecano goalkeeper, Wilfred Agbonavbare was in goal in the 1983 WAFU Cup. With a defensive line of Stephen Keshi, Kingsley Paul, Anthony Edwards, and Yisa Sofoluwe, Nigerians believed the goalkeeper had all the cover he needed but at the end of the game it was Togo 5-2 Nigeria.

After the game, Wilfred’s surname was changed by angry Nigerian fans from Agbonavbare to ‘Agbonibasket’, the basket implying that he carried lots of goals home. That name never left him.

Alloy Agu

Alloy was the number one choice in the early 90s and played 28 international matches for the Nigeria national team. He was the starting goalkeeper in the 1990 African Nations Cup where the team finished as runners-up and was brought to the 1994 FIFA World Cup and the 1994 African Nations Cup as a cover for Peter Rufai.

Nigerians believed they could win the Cup again after winning it in 1980 after they won the silver medal at the Cup of Nations in 1990 with a team composed of domestic players. Players like Stephen Keshi, Samson Siasia, Mutui Adepoju, and Austin Eguavoen had been called up to the team.

The fact that Nigeria would face Ghana in the semifinals gave Nigerians hope, as Ghanaian football had gone down under, but Alloy Agwu had a different plan. Ghana defeated Nigeria 2-1 with Alloy undoubtedly at fault for both of Ghana’s goals. That remained indelible in the minds of football loving Nigerians.

Ike Shorunmu

Nigeria had only won the Africa Cup of Nations twice, in 1980 and 1994. Many Nigerians still believed the country should have won it in 1996, before the military ruler, Sani Abacha, pulled Nigeria out of the competition in South Africa.

When Nigeria secured the rights to host the 2000 edition and qualified for the final in Lagos, much of the country believed it would be her third victory.

Nigerians were not even bothered that it was a final against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, who had defeated Nigeria in the 1984 and 1988 championships.

Samuel Eto’o Fils had given Cameroon the lead in the decisive match, and just when it looked as though the Eagles would equalise, a somewhat weak shot from Patrick Mboma went through Ike Shorunmu’s legs to give the Cameroonian team a 2-0 lead.

Abiodun Baruwa

After leading Shooting Stars Sports Club to the CAF Champions League final and winning the Olympic gold medal with the Atlanta 96 team, he was called up to the Super Eagles for the 1998 World Cup in France. Nigeria’s goalkeeping position was going through a transition with Peter Rufai retiring after the 1994 World Cup.

However, the team faced challenges as Joseph Dosu suffered a spinal cord injury, Ike Shorunmu got injured in a friendly against Germany, and Emmanuel Babayaro lost his form. Baruwa seemed promising until that unfortunate friendly against Yugoslavia.

Nigerians were hopeful that Baruwa would do well because he had a strong back four in Mobi Oparaku, Okechukwu Uche, Taribo West, and Garuba Lawal in front of him.

Savo Milosevic’s header was in the net in the 45th minute before Baruwa dove, but that wasn’t all.

After Baruwa received the ball from Taribo West in the 60th minute, he became distracted, which allowed Predrag Mijatovic to take advantage of him and score. By the time the third goal was scored, Baruwa had already lost the respect of the Nigerian people, and he would never again play for the Eagles or even receive an invitation to the national team.

Austin Ejide

Ejide was the first-choice goalkeeper at the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations ahead of Vincent Enyeama under coach Berti Vogts. He last featured for Nigeria in a friendly match against Scotland in 2014 in which he was spared the ignominy of scoring one of the most bizarre own goals in international football history.

Ejide managed to parry a harmless-looking corner into his own net from outside his six-yard box but the referee cancelled the goal.

Daniel Akpeyi

Some Nigerians still blame the Super Eagles failure at the 2019 AFCON on goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi.

They believed that the former Manchester City winger Rhiyad Marhez’s free kick that earned Algeria a 2-1 win over Nigeria in the semi-final could not have beaten his predecessor Vincent Enyeama.

Akpeyi’s positioning behind the wall he arranged made it easy for the clever Mahrez to poke in the decider without a sweat. That blunder also nailed Akpeyi’s coffin.

Chigozie Agbim

Agbim was a third-choice goalkeeper and had been heavily criticised by sports enthusiasts in Nigeria for his errors in Nigeria’s 2-1 loss to Mali in the two countries’ first match at the 2014 African Nations Championship, CHAN. He was part of the Super Eagles team that won the 2013 African Cup of Nations. He was also in goal for the Eagles when they won the Catalunya Cup against a Catalonia XI but never convinced anyone that he was good enough to keep for the Super Eagles. Late Stephen Keshi was heavily criticised for keeping faith with Agbim.

Maduka Okoye

The Super Eagles had begun the 2022 AFCON campaign with a win over Egypt and topped the group to emerge as the only nation to win all group games. In the Round of 16, Nigeria faced a COVID-19 ravaged Tunisia side. Okoye’s lack of concentration led to the 1-0 loss and eventual exit from the tournament.

Apart from the above mentioned goalkeepers, Dele Aiyenugba, who deputized Enyeama in both Enyimba and the national team was another goalkeeper whose occasional appearances for the Super Eagles left much to be desired.

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