INTERVIEW- Uzoho: I’m Not The New Enyeama, Croatia Dented My World Cup Debut, We’ll Bounce Back

INTERVIEW- Uzoho: I’m Not The New Enyeama, Croatia Dented My World Cup Debut, We’ll Bounce Back

Super Eagles goalkeeper Francis Uzoho speaks about his experience of being in a losing side as a FIFA World Cup debutant after Gerhot Rohr’s team lost to Croatia in their first Group D match of the ongoing Russia 2018. The 19-uear-old Deportivo La Coruna keeper spoke to Nnamdi Ezekute at the Kaliningrad Staium, Russian shortly after the group’s  matchday one games on Saturday, June 16. Excerpts…
Uzoho, how would you describe the experience of playing your first match at the senior World Cup?
I wanted my debut at the World Cup to come with a win,  but we didn’t get it – the desired three points. So, I  won’t say that I am happy with that though it’s now on record that I made my FIFA World Cup debut against Croatia. I appreciate the coach and his technical crew for giving me the opportunity to make my debut against Croatia.
 How did you manage your composure playing on your biggest stage so far in the game against Croatia at the Kaliningrad, Stadium.
The match against Croatia was the biggest stage that I have played, but definitely not the biggest crowd I have faced. I actually felt the same way I’ve always had it, trying to control the situation and help the team not  to concede a goal. I didn’t feel any pressure.
What do you think went wrong in the defeat to Croatia?
The team played well. For me the 2-0 result was not a very fair reflection of how the match went. We conceded an own goal, a lucky one for Croatia. It’s difficult when an own goal comes early in a game. It happens a lot in football, even worse things too which can unexpectedly turn the tide against your team. That’s what happened.  The Croatian team was good, but not fantastic.
I believe we wiil talk about the way forward, and work harder to win the next match.
What is the experience like coming from a period of no international match to playing at the at the FIFA World Cup?
Everything that has happened within this short space of time has taught me that one just needs to be focused, learn and work very hard. As far as football is concerned,  you just need to do the one you can do – that is working hard in training and giving your best in any game you are selected to play because you don’t know what big opportunity may come your way. I just worked hard, it came and I grabbed it.
Are you now looking to establish yourself in the Super Eagles and become the new Vincent Enyeama?
(laughs) No, I am not the new Vincent Enyeama. I always want to be myself, Francis Uzoho. Enyeama is a great goalkeeper. He worked hard and made a name for himself. I want to carve a niche for myself too. I want to be Francis Uzoho all the way.
How is the competition like among  you the three goalkeepers in the Super Eagles here in Russia?
My colleagues, Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Daniel Akpeyi, are great talents. I respect them for that. Anyone can do this job for the team. Remember that it’s the coach that chooses who plays and who doesn’t. We support each other, whether you’re playing or on the bench. That team unity is important.
We all work very hard in training.  In football there will always be a competition for places in the team. It improves the overall well-being of the team. That’s how the goalkeepers are working with the rest of the squad.

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Mega Millions Naija


  • Kingmaker 5 years ago

    Match Review: How SE rated vs Croatia.

    The match started on a high tempo wit Croatia easily taking the initiative. Nigeria conceded the midfield too easily to Croatia, & showed too much respect in the early exchanges. Conceded too many corners from pressures.
    However, Etebo was massive. Ndidi too. Mikel supported in breaking play.
    Our players wasted several dead ball chances.
    Kelechi could have handled those dead balls if he had started to snatch 1 or 2 goals for Nigeria.
    Failure to decisively curtail aerial threats did us in.
    Overall team rating: 4/10.
    Team must improve vs Iceland or its over.

    1) Uzoho Francis has gradually come of age through the baptism of fire from first WC match.
    Did well. Very composed. Plucked aerial balls confidently. Can’t really fault him anyway.. Stil improving.

    2) Shehu Abdulahi:
    High work rate. Got involved in midfield brawl but nothing extra. Failed to advance. Should be rested for Tyrone.

    3) Brain Idowu:
    Held his ground against the attacking threats from the speedy Croats. Strong on tackles. Still improving.

    4) William Troost:
    Hardworking but lost to experience & gave away an easy penalty. Must improve.

    5) Leon Balogun:
    Fast, adventurous & determined. Worked his heart out. Good outing.

    6,) Oghenekaro ‘Ngolo’ Etebo:
    Easily MOTM for SE.
    Power player. Good on the ball, and tireless attacking & tracking the ball all day.
    Slight deflection gifted the Croats an OG.
    SE best player on the night.

    7) Ndidi Wilfred:
    A show master. Treated the Croats as school boys. Great ball blocking and tackling. Still improving.

    8) Mikel Obi:
    Good and hardworking but was chased down by the Croats.
    Tired out and failed to live up to the big occasion.

    9) Alex Iwobi:
    A major flop on the night, not his usual self playing out of his preferred role, and tracking back into defensive position. Tired out & went to sleep.

    10) Victor Moses:
    Biggest flop of the night. Held too much on ball going forward & losing possession often. Very predictable Helped defensively though.
    Took all set pieces & dead balls without precision and purpose. Poor outing for his high standard.
    Need to be rested in next match for super sub role.

    11) Odion Ighalo:
    As usual a tireless runner.
    He could not have a decent chance at goal was his complaints.
    Nobody gives u that luxury at WC.
    Poor positional play. He must learn to run away from his markers & off the balls, instead of running to them for balls, or behind them to incur unnecessary offside calls.
    Poor again. He should be rested against Iceland.

    12) Ahmed Musa:
    Zestful, bullish and everywhere chasing the balls and trying to impress but certainly tactics didn’t favour him. Good as sub.

    13) Kele Iheanacho:
    Kele was brisk and chased the balls mindfully & had a sublime touch at goal but blocked. Without his twin strike-partner in Iwobi his finesse fizzles easily & unnoticed. Good but late sub. Good to start against Iceland.

    14) Simy Nwakwo:
    Late introduction. Can’t be objectively evaluated.

    15) Coach Gernot Rohr:
    He fell short of his own high standards as match reader, tactician & football strategist.
    Poor match formation, poor selection, poor tactics, poor & late substitutions.
    Burden to switch play was on him but clearly failed to respond timely.
    Croatia wasn’t better, Rohr tactics was counter-productive & gifted the Croats.

    Match Verdict for Iceland:
    Super Eagles must learn from this defeat and respond tactically to the Iceland threat.

    #Formation: 3-5-2.

    # Francis Uzoho (1)

    # Ogu, Leon, Troost (3)

    # Brian, Etebo, Ndidi, Mikel, Tyrone.(5)

    # Iwobi, Kelechi (2).

    # Super Subs:
    Musa, Moses, Simy.

    A must win vs Iceland!
    Go Eagles!!
    Good luck Nigeria!!!

    • Spot on!

    • Correct my brother, you kno much about the super eagle, 

    • Aloba 5 years ago

      U are d real deal. Your analyses are on point cos u poured out my thoughts. 352 is d only best formation we can use at d moment cos it worked effectively well against England in second half. I would love echiejile to replace Bryan cos of experience and ability to move forward. But in all this selection is d way to go against Iceland

  • I love this @kingmaker

  • Chairmanfemi 5 years ago

    Nice Analysis @Kingmaker. I heard onto what Uzoho stated above “The Croatians were good but not FANTASTIC” Very correct statement. To me, Super Eagles played well, just one or two lapses that can be corrected. #Soar Super Eagles

  • Djeniko 5 years ago

    Zola on Supersport said the Super Eagles lost to the Croats because of our mistakes. I agree with him. Will the Icelanders defend like they did ‘s Argentina? I don’t think so. They will think Nigeria is an easy pick and so will choose to attack to collect their ‘share’ of the group ‘donor.’ That will be their mistake. That is if they decide to come all out to attack. I see this Icelanders as too intelligent. They may decide to play normal football with every one minding his own wings. It will not be easy on Friday but anything can happen.

  • Uzoho has no business being the number 1 Goalkeeper at this world cup. Too inexperienced, raw and inappropriate for a tournament of this magnitude. The fact that Rohr could not find a mature and experienced Goalkeeper before this world cup just shows how incredibly inept he is a coach. This is not a criticism of Uzoho. He is doing his best under the circumstances and to his credit, he continues to improve. However, it is still madness that a country of 100 million people can not present a credible Goalkeeper at the highest stage of all with many months to do so after Ikeme’s illness. This coach should be sacked.

    • Dr. Drey 5 years ago

      Kindly suggest one ‘experienced’ goal keeper that we could have taken to the world cup pls…?

  • Ride on Uzoho. Even if anyone has bad belle for you, you have done well. Which mature goalkeeper should we have taken to the world cup??? Enyeama or Aiyenuigba? Or someone will say Akpeyi or Ezenwe would have done better? Escuseme pleeeeaaaase! The two goals were not his fault. What have we achieved with the so called matured goalkeeper. Keep riding on jare Uzoho. nothing do you.

    • ovoke ogheneovo 5 years ago

      Yes I agree with you. Although still very young, he has never been intimidated and the site of world class players and strikers. Uzoho has been blameless in all the games he has played and no right thinking human being will blame him for the two goals we conceded against the Croats

  • matsho 5 years ago

    Mr Judge,what has the so called experienced goalkeepers in the tournament (e.g. De gea) done better than Uzoho? Don’t use the present to destroy the future.Kudos to you Uzoho.

  • An open letter to Gernot Rohr

    Dear Rohr,

    It is a common knowledge that Nigeria lost to Croatia ( and three away a very cheap point in the process) not be because Croatia were fanstastic and overtly superior on the day but, because you sold us cheap in the eyes of the world with your cheap tactics and your late but also ineffective substitutions. To say that I am not surprised and totally disappointed would be am understatement considering that base on your previous performances with the SE, I had believed and totally supported Oga mumini Alao in his assertions that you are SE’s MVP because of your tactical know how and your technical ingenuity but what did Nigeria get in return  a shambolic and a heart breaking performances from a highly rated  yet underperforming SE.

    Never in my entire life have seen SE team pay so much respect and fear of an opponent like saw during the build up to a match like I saw with Croatia. Your post match reactions was the final application of the dagger to the heart. You knew quite alright that nothing saddens the heart of the Nigerian people like an underperforming Se and the best way to have placated Nigerians was to admit your wrong tactics and assure them of a better performance in the next match but no, you did the opposite by responding to the reporter’s question in German ( what a way to go). Judging by your response, alluding to the fact (which is not true base on the match we all saw)that Croatia is better, I can bold say that we would need a miracle to survive Iceland!

       Take away from Croatia’s

    Best Formation – it is obvious that our best formation is the 3-5-2. Though I would have love to The 5-3-2 option with Moses and tyronne Ebuehi playing as LWB and RWB and a 3 -man midfield diamond of etebo/ndidi,mikel and iwobi while kelechi partners Simy in attack.

    Compact Approach: the Se games right from the first qualification match against Zambia shows that as a team we have never been compact as a team. Yes we could have one offs but we have never been consistently compact. Check out Egypt and Morrocco when they lose the ball,all the eleven players get behind the ball and each keeping an eye on his marker. Plus, they practise the 10secs principle of marking- you must get the ball back within 10secs of losing  it. Se are too pedestrian in dre marking,honestly am too old and tired of jogging back to defend as if nothing is at stake. Defending as a team is our greatest weakness.

    Marking – Croatia exemplified how to mark using offensives players- Se had 3 successive corners kicks at the start of 2nd half and guess who was there mandzukic. Plus how many times did our midfielders lose the ball while trying to hold play only for the returning offensive player from Croatia to knock off the ball cleanly from behind although this would have been minimised where we have a team that communicate effectively.

    Transition : movement from defences to attack is a problem. Too many times when we launch attack, it we be so hard to find up to four players in the opponents box and even when they are there, they are not well postioned to score.  The 3- man attacking triad  (where you have 3 se players forming a triangular diamond around each of the opposition players) is the best because it allows for switch of play and at the same time allow for the players to keep an eye on the opponent. Barcelona and Spain use this a lot. Okocha n Iroha perfected this in the game against CIV in 94.

    Finidi George vs Moses Victor/musa

    Perhaps Victor Moses and Musa should be handed loads of tapes of Finidi “the legendary George” so both understands what is expected of them when playing for Se. Moses in particular as been overtly disappointing in his offensive duties. Most annoying is the ground stupidly and cheaply even when it is obvious that he has gone past his marker and knowing fully well he lacks to ability to deliver a fanstastic cross. Finidi on the other played at two world cups, made four assist with delightful crosses and scored a wonderful goal against Greece.

    I have totally lost hope what I have left is the belief that some how a miracle on the way. Soar Super Eagles.


  • Onyeagoro Johnson Chima 5 years ago

    Uzoho is a good goalkeeper and performed well during the first game against Croatia. The goals were not his fault and he made wonderful saves, if not, the goals would have been more. The person saying that Uzoho is not matured to stand between the sticks for Nigeria is poor judge of man and events.THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE AGE OF METHUSELAH.If the defense marked their man, the Croats will not have space to operate or head the ball which Etebo deflected into our net. Moreover,the ball headed by the Croat was off target until the deflection. How was it Uzoho’s fault? The soft penalty by Ekong was as a result of lack of experience and poor positioning . Ekong should have stood in front of the Croatian striker..he was badly positioned that was why,l believe he decided to wear the striker who was not even with the ball. How was this Uzoho’s fault? And finally, Croatians are tall and not match rusty,why must we always play high ball? Uzoho should continue as the first choice to stand between the sticks for Nigeria in our next match and pray that Croatia defeat Argentina and get them rooted at 1 point so that we will not depend on a win against Argentina to qualify but a draw after defeating Iceland. But if Argentina defeats Croatia, and we defeat Iceland,  then, we will need outright win against Argentina. So, victory for Croatia against the Argentine on Thursday, a must.

    • @Ashy Slashy and @ Dr. Drey
      Shall I call for a cease fire? We’ve had enough of this disgraceful exchange on this forum. I’m sure those who laboured to finance this forum are shaking their heads at your folly for turning a platform meant for analyzing soccer to a vehicle for exchanging foul language. What are you two doing? Exposing your poor upbringing? If this disgusting exchange continues, I’ll appeal to other forum members to sign a petition for CSN to block you two from this platform.

  • i appreciate all super eagles fans on this forum for your steadfastness through out the build up to the world and world cup proper, i can understand the frustration everyone is having due to unimpressive performance our players against croatia, i beg us to give them another chance vs Iceland, hopefully they will make us proud, to those castigating Uzoho, i can say it unequivocally that the young man has really live up to the expectaion vs croatia because personally i can’t found any fault in his game vs croatia. God bless Nigeria.

  • Dr Drey, let me put my profound hatred for you to one side for now and tackle your points above head on.
    When I say “experienced goalkeeper” I am not limiting the term experience to players like Ejide and Enyeama who have prior world cup experience.
    Unlike outfield players, goalkeepers tend to get better with age and some goalkeepers may not necessarily have world cup experience specifically, but experience acquired over the years in domestic leagues and continental competitions will stand them in good stead (in my view) for a tournament like the world cup.
    I will not be drawn into suggesting specific names, personally, that has never been my style.
    However, I want to believe that out there, there are Nigerian goalkeepers between 23-35 years old with valuable league, domestic competitions, continental competitions and even age grade (U-17, U-21, U-23) FIFA competition pedigree and experience under their belt that Nigeria can draw on other than allow a teenager use the world cup to gain (valuable) experience.
    But you know what, i may be wrong; I have been wrong in the past, nobody is perfect, it is just my point of view.
    But you, Dr Do-Little, have the audacity to insult me and make mockery of me in order to suppress my point of view. You will pay.
    I don’t care if I get booted out of this forum, you asked for it and you will get it,

  • Dr. Drey 5 years ago

    Here is a list of goal keepers (and their current clubs) who have represented Nigeria in international competitions in all age grades in the last 10 years

    CHAN 2018
    Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba), Dele Ajiboye (Plateau Utd), Theo Afehlokai (Enyimba)

    2016 Olympics
    Emmanuel Daniel (Signed for Orlando pirates but has remained missing ever since), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa Utd)

    CHAN 2016
    Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Femi Thomas, Okiemute Odah (Plateau Utd)

    U20 2015
    Joshua Enaholo (Signed for Enyimba 2yrs ago and has gone missing ever since), Dele Alampasu (CD Fierense – Portugal), Olorunleke Ojo (Akwa Utd)

    U17 2015
    Akpan Udoh (Unattached), Amos Benjamin (MFM), Chisom Chiaha (Unattached)

    Brazil 2014
    Vincent Enyeama (Clubless), Austin Ejide (Hapoel – Isreali 2nd div), Chigozie Agbim

    CHAN 2014
    Chigozie Agbim (NTBF), Dele Alampasu, Femi Thomas(Enugu Rangers)

    2013 AFCON
    Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide, Chigozie agbim

    U20 2013
    Chukwunonye Okani (Nowhere To Be Found), Jonah Usman (NTBF), John Felagha (Aspire Academy, Qatar)

    U17 2013
    Dele Alampasu, Abdulazeez Abubakar, Fancis Uzoho (Deportivo Fabril)

    U20 2011
    Dami Paul (Katsina United), Gidieon Gambo (Elkanemi), Kazeen Yekini (Kwara Utd)

    U20 2009
    Dele Ajiboye (Plateau Utd), Okafor Uche (Abia Warriors), Olateru Oladejo (NTBF)

    U17 2009
    Dami Paul, Amos Izuchukwu (NTBF), John Felagha (Aspire Academy-Qatar)

    All these keepers are within the ages of 23-35 and majority play in the NPFL. Gernot Rohrs has so far tested 9 of them in the last 1yr before eventually settling for Francis Uzoho, who buy the way plays in Europe, made 3 appearances in the laliga with 1 clean sheet, 2 draws, 1 loss, 2 goals conceeded and 25 apprearances in the segunda liga with 17 clean sheets. The 9 goalkeepers tested so far are;

    Francis Uzoho, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Daniel Akpeyi, Dele Ajiboye, Dele Alampasu, Femi Thomas, Olufemi Kayode (Lobi stars), Ojo olorunleke, Theo Afelokai. All nine have at one point in time represented nigeria internationally. Most of them have zero continental experience bcos nigerian clubs get booted out of african club competitions in the very first round.

    So bikonu, is it the 23-35yr olds (10yrs real age) that were never good enough for any of our underage national teams, that never had any continental experience, or never won anything on the domestic scene that will be ‘experienced’ enough to go to the world cup…? Pls who amongst the above listed is better than Uzoho, or the other 2 goalies we have in russia @ the moment. Pls where is ‘Experience’ manufactured 6 months to the world cup.

    Pls Anyone who knows any Nigerian goal keeper home or abroad, better than the above listed, kindly let us know.