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Francis Uzoho: Super Eagles Goalkeeper Peaks Just In Time For AFCONQ

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The Nigerian shot-stopper has not played for the three-time African champions in 16 months, but he gets closer to a recall after another composed performance for his club

Super Eagles goalkeeper Francis Uzoho delivered an excellent display to guide APOEL Nicosia to a disciplined 2-0 win over Ethnikos Achna in Cyprus on Sunday.

Emilio Nsue’s strike moments before halftime and Joe Garner’s effort just past the hour mark were all Savvas Poursaitidis’ men needed to bag the maximum points in their first relegation round match of the league campaign.

More remarkably, though, it was the third time in eight championship matches that Uzoho would keep a clean sheet.

The 22-year-old, Nigeria’s first-choice goalkeeper at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, suffered a terrible injury on international duty back in October 2019, which kept him out of action for club and country for the best part of 2020.

But Uzoho finally returned to club action in January and kept a clean sheet as APOEL handed a 3-0 humbling to Ermis Aradippou.

Apart from a stalemate against Anorthosis, the former Golden Eaglets goalie has had his net breached in every game played since, until Ethnikos Achna came calling at the Neo GSP Stadium on Sunday evening.

Uzoho played like one possessed, kept out an Ihor Khudobiak penalty in the 25th minute when the game was still scoreless, and produced a string of fine saves to preserve his clean sheet.

It is the perfect time to get back to peak form for Uzoho, with Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr expected to release a list of players with which he plans to prosecute Nigeria’s Afcon qualifiers against the Benin Republic and Lesotho later this month.

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In his absence, the former Girondins Bordeaux tactician has named Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper Maduka Okoye as the national team’s number one, with Uzoho and Kaizer Chiefs’ Daniel Akpeyi making up the top three.

But Okoye has been struggling with the Eredivisie club in recent weeks, and Akpeyi has spent more time on the bench than playing this year for the Amakhosi, leaving Uzoho with a chance to reclaim the top spot.

Okoye remains Rohr’s preferred shot-stopper but should Uzoho continue his steady return to his finest form, it would be difficult for the German gaffer to ignore the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup winner.

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