The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations campaign was not the most satisfying for Nigeria after they crashed out in the second round.
But while it was a disappointing exit, it could be an opportunity for some of the fringe players to stake their claim in the team’s future games.
One of these players includes Francis Uzoho. The 23-year-old could get the chance to reclaim the number one position after Maduka Okoye’s performance in the loss to Tunisia came under intense criticism.
Uzoho’s name first popped up at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, which the Golden Eaglets won.
Although he played second fiddle to Dele Alampasu in the tournament, he was still an important player in the squad.
Three years after the tournament, Uzoho moved from Aspire Football Dreams academy to Deportivo La Coruna, where he linked up with the U-19 team.
He stayed with the club’s U-19 squad for a few months before moving up to the reserve team. Uzoho’s then made history in October 2017 when he made his first-team debut in Deportivo’s La Liga clash against Eibar.
He was almost 19 at that time, which meant he became the youngest foreign goalkeeper to play in the Spanish top-flight.
But despite this feat, Uzoho did not stay long at Deportivo as he joined Elche in 2018. But before his move to Elche, he got his breakthrough in the national team.
At that time, the Super Eagles were going through a goalkeeping crisis as Vincent Enyeama had retired. Ikechukwu Ezenwa took over from Enyeama, but ex-Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr was not convinced of his abilities.
This opened the door for Uzoho, who then went on to stay in goal in all of Nigeria’s three games at the 2018 World Cup.
He moved to Elche after the World Cup, but surprisingly, he lost his spot in the national team. Uzoho was part of Nigeria’s squad that won bronze at the 2019 AFCON, but he was only in goal for the third-place match.
However, he regained his spot after the competition and was on course to make the position his own until he suffered a knee injury in the friendly game against Brazil, which ruled him out for more than six months.
This allowed Okoye to come in and take his spot. Uzoho has since returned from his injury, and he is now with Omonia Nicosia.
Still, he has not been able to wrestle the number one spot away from Okoye. But he could now get his chance following the Sparta Rotterdam’s poor showing in Cameroon.