As Nigeria’s Super Eagles begin qualification battles for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations ticket with a Group L home opening clash with Squirrels of Benin Republic on November 11, handlers of the three-time continental champions may have also spread their tentacles for new goalkeepers.
Poor goalkeeping largely contributed to the inability of the Super Eagles to reach the final of the just ended Egypt 2019 with Daniel Akpeyi gifting Algeria the precious passage to clash with the Teranga Lions of Senegal and eventually lifting their second AFCON title.
Akpeyi’s poor arrangement of his defence wall created opportunity for Riyad Mahrez to score the lone goal from that last free kick of the semi final clash with Nigeria.
But Super Eagles Goalkeeper Trainer, Alloy Agu, confirm in a Brila FM chat in Lagos yesterday morning that search for better safe hands to compliment those in camp have started to solidify the team ahead of the qualifiers of the tournament to be hosted by Cameroon in two years time.
Nigeria is drawn in Group L of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers alongside Sierra Leone, Lesotho and Benin Republic.
“This is the situation – Now, we are working. I can tell you categorically that, I have embarked with the scouting team to look within and outside Nigeria to make sure that, that position is solidified before the qualifiers (for AFCON 2021) begins,” stressed the former Nigerian goalkeeper.
Alloy Agu who for years was Nigeria’s Number one goalkeeper admitted that there was actually problem in that crucial department before the team left for the tournament in Egypt.
“The problem before the 2019 AFCON was that Francis (Uzoho) was not playing at club level and Ikechukwu Ezenwa had injuries issues. Therefore, if you are not playing you can’t be in the same shoes with someone playing week in and week out.
“When we got to Asaba for the opening of Eagles camp, Ezenwa was on top of his game but he sustained an injury which a lot of people did not know. And at that point in time, (Daniel) Akpeyi was on top of his game with his club in South Africa and he was doing well when we played against Egypt in a friendly before the Nation’s Cup in Asaba.
“So, that was the reason we featured Akpeyi to play our opening game against Burundi and then Guinea. He kept all clean sheets. Check all the goalkeepers that participated in the just-concluded Nations Cup, Akpeyi did not commit blunders like others did.
“But we opted to give Francis (Uzoho) the chance to be in goal during the third-place match. Francis was ready and we played him.”
Against the backdrop of criticism of the quality of goalkeepers in the senior national team at the moment, Alloy Agu said: “Let me explain to you, a lot of things have been said about that department and that department has not lived up to expectations. Let me take you back to the time of Vincent Eyeama, with the senior national team.
“Enyeama was the fourth goalkeeper of team when I took up the job of the Super Eagles goalkeeper trainer.
“I brought Enyeama to be the first choice of Super Eagles. He has a record since his debut at the World Cup that no other goalkeeper has been able to break up till date, ” stressed the former goalkeeper.
Alloy Agu praised Carl Ikeme who took over from Enyeama to solidify Nigeria’s goalkeeping area until leukaemia ended his football career.
“Ikeme did so well for Nigeria and the goalkeeping position was solidified until he fell ill and I had to bring in the same (Daniel) Akpeyi. Akpeyi was in goal when Nigeria consolidated in the qualifiers for Egypt 2019 against Algeria in Uyo. The same Akpeyi rescued us we beat Algeria that was number one then in Africa,” recalled Agu.