Nigerian goalkeeper Francis Uzoho committed a howler in the Super Eagles friendly match against the Saudi Arabia’s Green Falcons at the Estádio Municipal de Portimão in Portugal which ended in a 2-2 draw and his performance has left fans with concerns as the AFCON tournament approaches.
Nigeria began the match on the front foot, with early chances from star players like Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze. However, they could not capitalise on these opportunities, and the game headed to halftime with a score of 0-0.
The turning point came in the 60th minute when Salam Al-Faraji scored a free kick for Saudi Arabia largely due to an attempted clearance from Uzoho who sent the ball into his own net.
In the 83rd minute, Nigeria managed to equalise as an own goal by Saudi defender ,Al Amri tied the game. Iheanacho then scored a powerful goal from outside the box in the 91st minute, putting Nigeria ahead. However, just when victory seemed within reach, the Super Eagles conceded another free kick on the edge of the box during added time as the strike from Mohamed Kanno deflected off Calvin Bassey and went the opposite direction of Uzoho’s dive.
Since the exit of Carl Ikeme, Nigeria’s goalkeeping department has been struggling to find a suitable replacement. South Africa-based goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi was the target of severe criticisms on social media as the Super Eagles emerged third at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt in July.
Maduka Okoye, who was in goal when Nigeria lost to Tunisia in the last-16 of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations, was hounded by Nigeria fans on social media with comments ranging from trolling over his looks to death wishes upon him and his loved ones.
Uzoho’s performance has come under scrutiny, especially considering that he conceded two free-kick goals in this match.
Eagles coach, Jose Peseiro defended Uzoho, suggesting that the goalkeepers were under tremendous pressure from fans. He pointed out the inconsistency in criticising goalkeepers while other players who make mistakes are not subjected to the same level of scrutiny.
“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.
“I like our players, when they make mistakes, it is my responsibility. The goalkeepers never play free or calm because of the people. I don’t know why they attack the goalkeepers every time,” he said.
“Why don’t they attack the strikers when they lose the ball or miss a goal, why? They could make mistakes, it is my responsibility. Next time, I need to train him (Uzoho) better.”
Legendary Nigerian goalkeeper, Peter Rufai, expressed his bewilderment at Uzoho’s performance and the team’s selection in general saying, “I am also wondering how he could have conceded two free-kick goals.
“As fans though, if the coach and others who are responsible present a team for us and their selection proves wrong, they deserve to be questioned.”
Another ex-Nigerian goalkeeper Joseph Dosu was disappointed with Peseiro’s comments on Nigerians reactions to the goalkeeping errors.
“I am not sure I should say anything after what coach Peseiro has said after the game. He said Nigerians are the problem of his goalkeeping area so if he can say that, I leave his statement for them to decide on.
“If we have a national team and we cannot say one or two thinigs against our national team, that means we are not even in Nigeria anymore. For such performance, and the coach can come out and say Nigerians are the problem of our own national team, that means we are not allowed to talk anymore,” Dosu said.
Fans on social media also criticized Uzoho’s lack of regular playing time for his club and questioned the decision to field him in the match.
Journalist Ikenwa Nnabuogor wrote, “In the beautiful game, you leave regular competitive football for a day, it leaves you for a week. You can’t give what you don’t have; it’s no rocket science to know this. Francis Uzoho is bound for such a howler, he’s not playing regularly for his club, been out of the sticks in his club since 20 May 2023 and our dear good old Jose Peseiro hauled him into the game fantastically match rusty.”
A Nigerian, Godwin Antai compared Uzoho with United goalkeeper Andre Onana who is currently enduring a poor run writing, “Nigeria should have even won the game but Uzoho decided to turn Onana on the day.”
Yayah Lukman wrote that he feels the Nigerian captain Wilfried Ndidi wanted to slap Uzoho for the mistake that led to the first goal, “Ndidi reaction like make him slap uzoho aswear.”
Another Nigerian with the handle @oyimzy believes that Nigeria needs a new man between the sticks before the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.
“Three Months to the start of AFCON and I’m already having flashbacks of Ghana WC qualifier, if Super Eagles want to go far in Ivory Coast then we need to get a proper goalkeeper now. None of this Francis Uzoho nonsense!” he wrote.
Manchester United fans who remembered his heroic night where he made 12 saves against the Red Devils in a 1-0 win for United at Old Trafford in the Europa league last season took to social media to blast the goalkeeper.
That display led to the 24-year-old nominated for Europa League player of the week, with United ending up second in the group and forced to play two knock-out playoff fixtures by matter of a single goal.
One fan wrote, “I can’t believe that’s the same Francis Uzoho in goal for Super Eagles.”
“The same guy decided to become (Manuel) Neuer and force us to play 2 more games for no reason,” a second added.
A third wrote, “Only when he keeps against Man Utd you’d see a stellar performance from Uzoho… funny dude.”
As the AFCON tournament approached, it has become clear that the Super Eagles need to address their goalkeeping concerns. Prospects like Hapoel Jerusalem’s Adebayo Adeleye and LASK’s Tobias Lawal should be considered as potential solutions to bolster the goalkeeping department.
These concerns reflect the team’s need for stability and reliability in one of the most critical positions on the field.
Scholarships Up For Grabs For 10 Winners At MTN Champs
The grand finale of the MTN Champs will commence from today and end on Sunday at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja where 10 winners will bag scholarship and financial benefits.
MTN CHAMPS is a program in Nigeria that aims to unearth and foster athletics talent across the country.
It is modeled after the Jamaican High school CHAMPS and is poised to become the primary platform for identifying and nurturing promising athletes who could go on to represent Nigeria in prestigious international competitions such as the Olympics and World Championships.
Before the finals in Abuja, the track and field event was held in three different regions namely: Uyo, Benin and Ibadan where over 7,000 athletes have competed and 42 finalists emerged.
Speaking at the MTN Champs Press Conference held on Wednesday in Abuja, the General Secretary of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Rita Mosindi appealed for the introduction of anti-doping lectures for the young athletes.
“ I want to appeal for the introduction of anti-doping lectures for the kids to educate them on the side effects of taking dope substances.
“These are raw talents that we can manage and nurture them to stardom.
“My advice is to do seminars concerning this just as we have started doing as a federation to reduce doping cases in Nigeria.”
Founder and CEO of Making of Champions (MoC), Bambo Akanni, who is the brain behind the MTN Champs revealed that 10 young athletes from the championship will get special scholarship in the USA and Jamaica.
“MTN Champs involving Secondary School Championship is to discover future Olympians for the country, building youth to excel in sports and academics. This is in line with MTN history of supporting local athletes for global aspirations.
NBPL Final Four: Winning Tournament Excites Rivers Hoopers Player
Rivers Hoopers of Port Harcourt player Effiong Abel has expressed joy for winning the just concluded Nigeria Basketball Premier (NBPL) League Final Four in Port Harcourt.
According to him, the game was not an easy one, adding that they were going through a hard training before the competition.
Effiong disclosed his excitement last Saturday in an exclusive interview with Tidesports shortly after Rivers Hoopers defeated Nigeria Customs basketball team 77-57 in the final game of the four of the NBPL in Port Harcourt.
He stated that it was a team work that saw them through, adding that he was very happy winning the tournament in the front of his fans.
“ I feel very excited today for winning the Nigeria Basketball Premier League Final Four in Port Harcourt.
“ It was not an easy one because of the type of training we were undergoing to ensure we get victory in the tournament.
“I give kudos to my teammates and the coaching crew, they were awesome.
“ Also kudos to the fans, they came out in numbers to support us” Effiong said.
Effiong personally took charge at some point of the game delivering three pointers which eventually created a lee way for a sumptuous finale.
By: Kiadum Edookor
MOC Makes Appeal Over Age Cheats
Organisers of the ongoing school athletics competition, MTN Champs, Making of Champions (MoC), have appealed to all athletes who have participated in the three legs of the championship, as well as their schools, parents, coaches and everyone connected to them to support the body in its efforts to eradicate the systemic age cheating in Nigeria’s athletics by committing to use their real ages at the Abuja grand final and in future.
“MTN has provided a historic opportunity for Nigeria to finally tackle the pressures that our athletes have long faced to cut their ages,” MoC said in a statement made available to news men.
“Never in our nation’s history has there been a nationwide series of championships that has provided three age groups cutting across ages 11 to 19, to give everyone possible opportunity to compete fairly in their own age groups, and we have even relaxed the junior age group from U-20 to U-23.
The grand finale will hold in Abuja from December 1 to 3.
The MoC statement added: “Despite the fact that appropriate age groups have been provided for everyone, we have seen widespread age discrepancies across all three age categories – Cadet (U-14) and Youth (U-17) categories, which are strictly for secondary schools only and juniors (U-20), which is open to all other teenagers.
“For example, we have seen a systematic pattern of an unusually high number of SS2 and SS3 students claiming to be 13 and 14 years old respectively. We have seen athletes who were 14 in 2021 claiming to still be 14 now, 18-year-olds who have finished secondary school already claiming to be 13 so that they can run against the cadets, and we have seen many athletes competing for schools they are not part of and in the wrong age categories as well.
“One of such schools, which was biggest offender in this area, is currently in the process of being disqualified, which will be announced shortly.”