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Age concerns shouldn't overshadow Francis Uzoho's magnificent year

Goal.com logo Goal.com 5 days ago Kunle Fayiga
a person playing a game of football © Getty

COMMENT    By Kunle Fayiga     © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited Follow on Twitter

a close up of a person holding a football ball © Getty

 

2018 might have been a disappointing year for Nigeria as they failed to exceed expectations at the World Cup, but Africa Cup of Nations qualification for the first time since 2013 has at least ensured they end the year on a high.

One Super Eagles player who saw his stock rise was Francis Uzoho.

a close up of a person holding a football ball: Nigeria training - Francis Uzoho © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited Nigeria training - Francis Uzoho

After a shaky start to his senior team debut in 2017, the Aspire Academy graduate grew in confidence with the national side and duly got more competitive games under his belt in 2018.

Indeed, his confidence and composure has improved, although he still has many rough edges to work on. His handling, which was an eyesore in the comeback 3-2 win away to Libya in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers, is one example, but he is clearly the number one under Gernot Rohr.

Playing in the second tier of Spain has been seen as a drawback to Uzoho's burgeoning reputation, but the keeper has also had to bat away continued speculation about his true age.

The Deportivo La Coruna B loanee is presently 20, and was recently married in his native Imo State, but he has been under fire ever since he came into the limelight due to the apparent discrepancy between his apparent age and his physical appearance.

On one hand, the concerns are understandable, with Nigeria long battling the stigma of age cheating players at various youth levels. 

Fortunately, for now, Uzoho doesn't appear fazed by the accusations.

a close up of a man: Nigeria vs. Iceland - Francis Uzoho, Leon Balogun © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited Nigeria vs. Iceland - Francis Uzoho, Leon Balogun

Despite the speculation, however, and the occasional blunder, Gernot Rohr has kept faith with Uzoho ever since introducing the youngster.

Experienced players such as Elderson Echiejile and Ogenyi Onazi have come and gone, but Uzoho is among the first names on the teamsheet. This only stresses how much Rohr trusts the youngster, even considering his flaws.

a person playing a game of football: Francis Uzoho © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited Francis Uzoho

It's sad that injury had to end Uzoho's 2018, but he was back in Elche's lineup on January 4 for the away defeat by Tenerife.

This year, he should go from strength to strength, and it's high time that Nigerians begin to appreciate the talent that's in their midst rather than attempt to try and find flaws with the stopper.

With the Afcon on the horizon, fans also need to throw their energy behind the team so that success can be achieved.

With the support of the fans, perhaps Uzoho can help the Super Eagles forget the departed Vincent Enyeama.

a man posing for the camera © Getty Images a close up of a man © Getty

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