De Gea shows what Rohr's Super Eagles need

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Few would deny that David de Gea's breathtaking performance in Manchester United's 3-1 win over Arsenal was a goalkeeping masterclass.

That display showed what difference a goalkeeper can make for a team in a game where the margins are small, but the rewards - and consequences - are potentially gargantuan.

For Nigerians, it proved once again, how critical it is for Gernot Rohr to resolve an area of in his team that has grown more problematic since the premature retirement of Vincent Enyeama, and the illness-enforced absence of Carl Ikeme.

Where Rohr's team are essentially well-covered in most of the other areas, goalkeeper remains a particular position of nervous concern for Nigerian fans.

Over the course of the qualifiers and multiple friendly matches, Rohr has lined out with Daniel Akpeyi, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Dele Alampasu and more recently Francis Uzoho.

Waiting in the wings, and with a good chance to get in, is home-based Dele Ajiboye.

Former youth international Ajiboye is the only one of the current crop yet to get an opportunity. Of the others, Akpeyi has seen his stock plummet following errors against South Africa and Argentina.

Ezenwa sits top of the pile, but does not exactly inspire confidence among the fans after giving away a needless penalty against Cameroon in Yaounde.

Uzoho looked calm and assured against Argentina, but barely faced any pressure and it would be a big ask installing a goalkeeper with barely two full league games at a World Cup.

Rohr told KweséESPN last week that he will have his goalkeeper trainers work extra hard on the group of keepers he has now, before he can determine who will take the number one jersey.

Here is what he could potentially be looking at and what his goalkeepers would need to do to win their spots:

Prove their talent

Of course this goes without saying, as none of the goalies would be anywhere near the national team without showing some talent.

But Rohr and his trainers will be looking for more than just run-of-the-mill ability.

This is where the rookies Uzoho and Alampasu appear to edge at least two of their more experienced rivals.

Team sources have told KweséESPN on Tuesday that both Super Eagles goalkeeper trainers have been hugely impressed by the natural ability of the two youngsters, and see them as the long-term future.

Only Ajiboye seems to be as naturally talented as the two teens.

Have bags of self-confidence

Goalkeeping is as much about the perception of invincibility as it is the actual act itself.

Former captain Enyeama was the very personification of that arrogance of confidence.

The confidence of one who knows it will take something special to beat him. And even when that does not happen, has enough confidence in himself and his ability to shrug it off and get on with the game.

It is a confidence that Ezenwa is beginning to develop without quite being there yet, perhaps because he was not trusted to be number one, even when Ikeme was ruled out.

Instead, Rohr called up Akpeyi and shunted him past Ezenwa into the starting position.

And now, despite steady performances, including an unexpected assurance in dealing with crosses, is still not trusted to be named first choice as a Rohr - and the fans - hang the spectre of a returning Enyeama over his head.

But if he wants to be the top pick, he will need to get that confidence, and get it fast.

Akpeyi has had his own confidence chipped away at so much over the last few months, and since the South Africa game, that he is probably just one more error away from becoming a nervous wreck.

Alampasu and Uzoho remain largely untested but did look good in their limited opportunities.

Ajiboye, meanwhile, is the goalkeeper with enough self-confidence to include in the squad, at the very least.

He was an outstanding cadet at age-group level, winning the Under-17 World Cup in 2007, representing Nigeria at the Under-20 World Cup and was the starting goalkeeper for the Under-23 team at 2012 Olympic qualifiers.

He also had a two-year spell in Europe with Spanish second division club Pontevedra CF and currently plays for Nigeria champions Plateau United with whom he should get CAF Champions League exposure, if he stays.

Ajiboye has seemingly has enough of that arrogant self-confidence needed to be a top goalkeeper.

Garner experience

Sir Alex Ferguson splashed out for De Gea because of his talent, but the goalkeeper did not get to where he is on that alone.

His early days in England provided some brutal, growing-up lessons for the former Atletico Madrid stopper. De Gea learned, and those lessons are serving him well.

Enyeama may have had his breakout at the 2002 World Cup, but he was forged in fire at Enyimba, especially during those Champions League duels where he fielded fire both on and off the pitch.

Rohr's current charges need to take a cue from both.

All five goalkeepers in the mix have represented the country at junior level. Now, they have six months to steady their hands and heads.

Reports are that Ezenwa is on the verge of leaving FC Ifeanyi Ubah. Wherever he intends to go, he must make sure it includes a guarantee of regular action.

The same applies to Ajiboye. He would be best served staying at Plateau United and getting CAF Champions League minutes, rather than going elsewhere.

Akpeyi is already fairly established at Chippa United.

For the youngsters, if opportunities do not present themselves with the first team, they would do well to either ask for loan moves, or drop down a division in order to gain playing minutes.

The World Cup is no tea party.