22 May 2018

Nigeria: Five Top Goalkeepers to Watch in Russia

Photo: Steven Depolo/Flckr.com
Soccer balls

Goalkeepers have colossal roles to play in determining their countries' progression at this year's World Cup in Russia. As the host kick-starts the competition with the opening game against Saudi Arabia on June 14 in Moscow, a lot of the Red Army's supporters would expect Igor Akinfeev to stand between ambitious strikers and the Russian net. So also would Nigerians expect any of the quartet of Francis Uzoho, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Daniel Akpeyi and Dele Ajiboye chosen as the country's number one, to guard Super Eagles' post carefully.

Notable names that include Manchester United and Spain's David De Gea, Chelsea's and Belgium, Thibaut Courtois, FC Barcelona's and Germany's Marc Andre Ter Stegen, Manchester City's and Brazil's Ederson Moraes, and Everton's and England Jordan Pickford, are some of the best five goaltenders pundits are tipping to be stars of the Mundial.

But that does not mean they are the best around, as some of the best, including Juventus and Italy's Gianluigi Buffon and Atlético Madrid and Slovenian Jan Oblak, will missing the World Cup action because their countries did not qualify for the festival.At the last World Cup in Brazil, Germany's Manuel Neuer was unanimously chosen as the best due to his game saving heroics, especially in the final match against Argentina. Neuer is racing against time to be fit for the Mundial, but in his absence Germany boasts so many talented shot stoppers capable of stepping in between the posts.

Speaking to The Guardian on his choice of top five goalkeepers the world should look out for beginning from June 14 in Russia, former Super Eagles Goalkeeper, Ike Shorunmu, said the goalkeepers, who excelled well at the recently concluded various leagues in the globe might not measure up to the task during the biggest sports fiesta in the world.

"The World Cup is quite different from the leagues, and the spirit of the World Cup is also totally different. You can say this goalkeeper is going to be marvelous when he gets to the World Cup and at the end he disappoints. I think I want to leave it open as a goalkeeper might just come out from the blues and perform better than the so-called world-class goalkeepers expected to do better than the rest.

"From what I saw in the leagues of various nations that just ended, at least I know about five goalkeepers, who I think are going to do very well at the World Cup. The two German goalkeepers, Marc Andre Ter Stegen and Manuel Neuer, who just came back after many months of injury, are good and very consistent. But for me, I will pick Neuer ahead of Ter Stegen irrespective of his long lay off. Injury apart, you need to look at his ability, the only thing that they need to work on is the psychology of his injury so as to take it out of his mind. I believe in Neuer's ability in between the goalposts.

"Another goalkeeper I am trusting for good performance in Russia based on his form at his club is Costa Rican Keylor Navas, who plays for Real Madrid. The guy did very well for his club with good reflexes. He was one of best goalkeepers at the last World Cup in Brazil and that was what earned him a place in the Real Madrid side. Spanish David De Gea has been excellent for Manchester United in the concluded season. Surely, the world should watch out for him to display those marvelous saves for his country.

"The problem that I have with Manchester City's keeper, Ederson, is his inconsistency in the goalpost. Though he is good with his legs, his hands failed him on many occasions while keeping for City. I have not been too impressed with him but definitely he will be a good addition to the Brazilian national team, he is also a goalkeeper to watch out for in Russia.

"Then the Belgian, Thibaut Courtois, is also one of the goalkeepers to look out for in the Coach Roberto Martínez-tutored side. Though he too has been inconsistent for Chelsea this season, committing some blunders for the London based club."Super Eagles goalkeepers' trainer, Alloy Agu, also thinks that any of the goalkeepers that will man the post for the country would also excel at the Mundial in Russia.

"It is not possible to talk about goalkeepers going to the World Cup without talking about our own too. Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Francis Uzoho, Daniel Akpeyi have all done well at their respective clubs and should be talked about. We are also expecting great performances from them also."However, goalkeepers from Germany, Spain, Portugal and France are some of the ones that we expect to also perform well at the World Cup. These countries have always produced good goalkeepers and this particular World Cup will not be any different from their previous ones," he said.

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