Tianjin Teda of China midfielder, John Mikel Obi as described Nigeria’s new first choice goalkeeper, Francis Odinaka Uzoho as the Super Eagles’ symbol of youth at this year’s World Cup.
Nigeria have the youngest squad at the 2018 World Cup, with an average age of 25.9 years, but Mikel does not think it is any problem for the team.
Aged 19 years 7 months and 19 days, Uzoho is the youngest ever Nigerian goalkeeper to feature at the World Cup, beating the record previously held by the Eagles’ former captain, Vincent Enyeama, which has stood for 16 years, when he debuted against England at Korea/Japan 2002.
Uzoho has started the last five matches contested by Nigeria’s senior team and posted a shutout against Poland in March 2018, and Mikel said all the other players just have to do is to keep encouraging the youngster to grow as Russia 2018 expands.
Mikel said: ”He is a very young goalkeeper. I think the good thing about him is that no matter what pressure he comes under, he is always very calm.
”This is very good for us; it is very good for him. He knows how to deal with pressure and this is very nice to see from a young goalkeeper like him. He has a lot of responsibilities as a goalkeeper but we try to help him as much as we can.
”The coaches, the players we speak to him a lot, I speak to him a lot as well to try to help him, during the game he needs someone to always talk to him and I try to talk to him as much as I can.
”It is also important for us to let him concentrate and do his job because he knows exactly what he’s doing, we don’t want to confuse him with too much talking, so I try to talk to him and try to get him as calm as possible so that he can concentrate more on the game.
”So we don’t have a problem with our goalkeeping situation. We hope that he’s going to have a great tournament and we all together as a team will have a good tournament.
”In football in this tournament, you take each game as it comes. Sometimes, experience counts, sometimes as well youthfulness counts, full of energy.
”Players have a lot to prove, they haven’t been in this stage before, so I think in a way it will help us, maybe in a way it might be a problem.
”We have been playing like this the whole year or a year and a half, we can’t change it now, we have to play with the players that we’ve been playing with and do exactly what we have been doing before.
”Hopefully, we can achieve a lot of things in this tournament with this young team mixed with a little bit of experience. We have a very good blend and hopefully this will work out very well for us,” Mikel submitted.