By Jacob Ajom
Peter Rufai who kept for Nigeria at the 1994 and 1998 World Cup tournaments gave his verdict on goalkeepers Francis Uzoho and Ikechukwu Ezenwa, coach Gernot Rohr’s first and second choice goalkeepers for the national team.
Reviewing Uzoho’s performance at the World Cup in Russia, Rufai said the young man did his best and for his age, he could be excused for some of the mistakes he made in the course of the tournament.
“Uzoho tried, but if you ask me to choose between him and Ezenwa, I will go for Ezenwa,” Rufai said. He observed that Uzoho did not have the finesse of a great goalkeeper and was still raw. He said the mistakes the goalkeeper made did not result in goals that was why his defects were not too conspicuous to the ordinary fan.
“What you look out for in a goalkeeper is his ability to be ‘clean’. By this I mean his movement, the way he does his catches, how he parries the ball and general technicalities required of a goalkeeper.
“This is where Ezenwa has an edge over him. Ezenwa’s movement in the goal line, his commanding presence and how he organises his back four was what we missed at the World Cup in Russia. He is a natural goalkeeper.”
Rufai said Uzoho had every opportunity to shine. “He got the coach’s backing and was primed for greatness. If Ezenwa got the same kind of support, I am sure we would have been talking of something else by now.”