The young Nigerian goalkeeper has confessed that playing against two of the game’s greats in Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain remains the happiest memory of his career.
Francis Uzoho has picked the Super Eagles last group match against Messi’s Argentina at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia has the best day of his football life.
Uzoho’s inclusion in Nigeria’s squad to the football fiesta was a massive surprise to many. The young shot-stopper was part of the victorious Nigeria squad at the 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, albeit without playing a single minute at the tournament.
But Uzoho moved to Deportivo La Coruna from Qatar’s Aspire Academy in January 2017 and, later that year, became the youngest foreign goalkeeper to ever play in La Liga, marking his memorable Deportivo debut with a clean sheet.
His form in Spain caught the attention of Gernot Rohr, who had been looking for solutions to the Super Eagles’ goalkeeping problems caused by the premature retirement of Carl Ikeme.
Then only 19, Uzoho made his Super Eagles debut against Argentina in a November 2017 friendly, a game Messi missed, and Nigerian won by a 4-2 scoreline.
Despite his relative inexperience, Uzoho was elevated as the first-choice keeper ahead of the experienced duo of Daniel Akpeyi and Ikechukwu Ezenwa, heading to the World Cup.
He was in goal when Rohr’s men lost to Croatia, defeated Iceland, and succumbed to a late 2-1 loss to Argentina, with Messi netting a fine opener.
Despite the Super Eagles losing that encounter, Uzoho feels privileged sharing the same pitch with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
“Playing at the World Cup for the first time as a first choice goalkeeper came as a grace to me,” the Omonia Nicosia keeper said, as quoted by the Guardian.
“In fact, the day Nigeria played against Argentina was my best day in the game because I stood on the same field with Messi and Higuain, players I respect a lot.
“I had to control my excitement as a professional keeper to give my best in the game.”