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Time to give Olufemi Kayode a chance after Francis Uzoho howler

10:13 AM SGT 26/3/19
Olufemi Kayode
Another horrendous error from the youngster is a sign that Gernot Rohr needs to assess more goalkeepers, and the Lobi Stars man tops the list

Francis Uzoho might have 13 senior international caps to his name, but each passing fixture he is involved in raises seemingly more doubts about his credibility as the Super Eagles' number one.

A final Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against the Seychelles, ranked 189th in the world, on Friday should have been a game that the Deportivo La Coruna loanee would keep a clean sheet in with ease.

However, he made a mess with his handling from a free kick, failing to gather the ball, and duly gifted the Pirates only their third goal of the qualifiers.

Gernot Rohr’s men might have won 3-1 on the afternoon in Asaba to ensure they finish top of Group E, but it was not the most convincing of performances, and Uzoho’s moment of carelessness was among the key talking points of the game.

It’s becoming all too common for Uzoho to be in the spotlight for the wrong reasons from his errors rather than for strong performances, as had been the case with his predecessors Vincent Enyeama and Carl Ikeme.

Indeed, in the 3-2 away victory against Libya which put the Super Eagles in driving seat for qualification, Uzoho put in a terrible display with his clumsy handling again allowing the Mediterranean Knights to claw their way back from two goals down before an improved Odion Ighalo saved the day nine minutes from time.

It is thus clear that Uzoho is not yet ready to be the man between the sticks for Nigeria.

His inability to find a permanent club, specifically a competitive outfit in a top-tier league, has really not helped his development. He might be at Anorthosis Famagusta which is a big club in Cyprus, but they rarely compete against more established sides, last participating in the Europa League in 2012 and only getting as far as the third qualifying round.

Since stand-ins Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Daniel Akpeyi do not have the faith of Rohr or the Nigerians fans, and so the Franco-German tactician needs to assess more goalkeeping options.

Rohr has, however, defended Uzoho, asserting that he is still remains the number one.

"Mistakes are mistakes and they are what they are and can be committed by anybody," Rohr told journalists after the game in Asaba.

"Uzoho is our number one goalkeeper, and it is unlike him to make such an error. I know his worth and won’t rush to condemn him over this error."

The 65-year old clearly has faith in Uzoho for now, but if the Aspire Academy graduate still makes the same mistakes, there'll be need for serious consideration. After all, Rohr continued to use Elderson Echiejile and Ogenyi Onazi despite their below-par showings until he had no choice but to axe them from the team. 

One man that deserves such consideration is Olufemi Kayode.

His stock continues to rise rapidly in the Nigeria Professional Football League, earning rave reviews among fans. He’s a man brimming with confidence, and he's subsequently churned, out impressive performances on a consistent basis.

He kept 10 clean sheets for Lobi Stars last year and though it was a joint record with Femi Thomas of Enugu Rangers and Kano Pillars’ David Obiazor, Lobi topping the standings until the league’s premature end meant Kayode won the most plaudits of the trio.

The Pride of Benue finished a disappointing third in Group A in the ongoing Caf Champions League, but Kayode was without doubt their standout player, as he made series of top drawer saves against Wydad Casablanca, Mamelodi Sundowns and ASEC Mimosas, ensuring that they didn’t inflict more damage on Stars.

Kayode could be considered as ‘Nigeria’s David de Gea’ because he’s well composed, handles the ball well, and knows when to react without making clumsy errors like Uzoho does.

It might be the wrong timing for a change of goalkeeper as the Afcon is just three months away and there is only a small window available to play warm-up friendlies before the tournament proper begin.

However, with Uzoho not showing enough confidence, Rohr might need to take a gamble on testing Kayode.

His level of consistency on the local and continental scene is definitely a plus and should be enough motivation for him to excel.

Rohr has been heavily criticised for not involving NPFL players in the national team, and pointed out othrwise to the press in Asaba.

“Since I’m here, for two years and a half, I have invited more than 22 local players and most of them are now abroad," Rohr told journalists.

While he explained that factors such as playing on artificial turf and the league's indefinite hiatus have been responisble for NPFL talents not seeing more gamtime with the national side, these aren't proving to be issues for in-form Kayode.

If there's anyone from the division who deserves a shot, its the Stars' stopper. Considering Uzoho's troubles, Nigeria may need him sooner rather than later.