Anorthosis Famagusta of Cyprus goalkeeper, Francis Odinaka Uzoho will have four final chances to regain his status as Nigeria’s number one shot-stopper, as the Super Eagles are billed to have mild technical sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, before playing Burundi on Saturday in their first match of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
It means Uzoho, who has been in shaky form due to lack of activity with his club, following a health certificate scandal, after arriving on loan from Deportivo La Coruna, who initially sent him to Elche, must prove himself during training for only four days this week with the Eagles.
His stay at Elche was also a nightmare, but Famagusta has not given him better comfort, such that his position in the Eagles now appears on the hinges as well, with Daniel Akpeyi appearing to have won over many hearts, while there is uncertainty over the fitness of Ikechukwu Ezenwa.
Akpeyi, who is ironically the oldest player in the squad, was brought into the starting line-up against Zimbabwe last weekend, as if to confirm a revival in fortunes for the Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa shot-stopper, who was Nigeria’s number three keeper at the 2018 World Cup.
However, Eagles’ coach, Gernot Rophr is staying cautious in arriving at his starting 11 against Burundi, as he admitted he is wary of instances of injuries in erupting before Saturday’s first group match of the Africa Cup of Nations against The Swallows in Alexandria, Egypt.
Rohr aslo acknowledged that his team has several new players available for selection, which might bring forth a different starting 11 for the opening match against Burundi on Saturday.
With the exception of Moses Simon, who was ruled out of the World Cup last year in Russia, due to injury, seven new faces are in Rohr’s AFCON 2019 roster, after impressing for their respective clubs last season.
The Franco-German tactician pointed out that the return of John Mikel Obi, after a self-imposed sabbatical that lasted one year, accounted for the ejection of Semi Ajayi from the list of 23 to AFCON 2019, but says he always has fears about injuries upsetting his plans before the first game.
Rohr stated: ”I hope nobody gets injured again but we had this case before the World Cup when we lost Moses Simon in the last camping and he had to be replaced.
”We had to do away with a defensive midfielder because Obi Mikel came back, he’s well integrated in the group so we had to remove our player Semi Ajayi and also a striker who is lacking confidence but he worked very well.
”We don’t know yet who is the number one goalkeeper, we will decide after the preparations but there are three good goalkeepers and we trust them.
”Our strength is the solidarity because if there is somebody with problems, the other one will help him on and off the pitch.”