On a weekend that will be remembered for goalkeeping howlers, it’d be remiss to not applaud the efforts of Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who was named man of the match on Saturday despite his side losing 1-0 to Argentina. Enyeama pulled off a string of incredible stops against Argentina’s stars that kept Nigeria in the game long enough for the Super Eagles to almost snatch a late draw at the end.
African keepers don’t often get wide recognition for their talents — indeed, while the continent has been stereotyped as rich in powerful, robust midfielders and powerful, robust strikers, we mostly hear about the guys between the sticks following comedy moments such as this. Enyeama plies his football in the Israeli first division, on the periphery of Europe’s major leagues. His height — at 5’9, he ranks among the shortest of the World Cup’s custodians — has kept him from the big time.
But perhaps that’s about to change. Enyeama’s best save came toward the end of the first half, when he flew to his right to parry a sumptuously curled shot by Lionel Messi with his trailing hand. (A replay of the save can be seen here, though the highlight doesn’t do justice to Enyeama’s acrobatics.) Following the match, the keeper declared to reporters that his performance had divine inspiration: “It was God that did it for me… God is my secret, my friend, he makes the difference in my life – he made me so calm out there.” Enyeama may have to repeat his brilliance against a spirited South Korean side in the last game of the group stage, so here’s hoping his good form continues. If Diego Maradona, now Argentina’s coach, had one Hand of God, maybe Enyeama can hold up two.