Enyeama shining star for Nigeria

Enyeama shining star for Nigeria

Among the few bright spots for Nigeria in their tepid start to the World Cup was yet another clean sheet for goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

The fact he did not concede a goal in Monday's 0-0 Group F draw with Iran in Curitiba should not come as much of a surprise.

The 31-year-old came into the tournament in Brazil on the back of his best-ever season, coming agonisingly close to breaking a 21-year-old record in the French league.

Between August and December, Enyeama went 1062 minutes without conceding a goal for his club Lille, passing 11 hours of blemish-free football and coming within 114 minutes of the record before finally being beaten by a deflected shot.

The achievement came at the end of a year in which he won the African Nations Cup at the fifth time of asking, adding to the success he had achieved when he just out of his teens with his first professional club Enyimba when they won the African Champions League in 2003 and 2004.

African goalkeeping exports to Europe are a rarity and it has taken Enyeama almost a decade to prove himself through the relative anonymity of the Israeli league and onto France, where last month he was named best African player for the last campaign.

But for the Nigerian side, he has been first choice for the last decade, effectively taking over during the 2002 World Cup when he played one game -- keeping a clean sheet against England in Osaka.

“He is a winner,” said coach Stephen Keshi recently of his captain. “A positive presence who has great relations with his team-mates. Not for nothing, is he the captain of the team.”

It is actually a job he shares with centre-back Joseph Yobo, and his leadership will again be important for Nigeria when they take on Bosnia in Cuiaba on Saturday, followed by a meeting with Argentina in Porto Alegre next Wednesday.

It was against Argentina four years ago that Enyeama played what he says “was the best game of my career”.