Having won the Africa Cup of Nations, Afcon, only twice in the past, Nigerians say it is time for the Super Eagles to win it a third time
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jan. 28, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
ALTHOUGH the Nigerian senior national team, the Super Eagles, is not one of the favourites to win the 2013 African Cup of Nations, Afcon, which starts this weekend (Saturday, January 19) in South Africa, Nigerians expect the team to win the tournament. Sports analysts and ordinary Nigerians, who spoke with Realnews believe that the Super Eagles could win the tournament and make the country proud.
Michael Obasi of Hot FM, expects a wonderful outing for the Super Eagles. Obasi said he did not envisage any problem that can top the Eagles from getting to the semi-final stage, but it would not surprise him if it could go all the way to win the trophy because of the kind of players in the team. “Looking at the history of the Nations Cup, the Eagles under Christian Chukwu, Shuiabu Amodu, which people complained were not good got to the semi-final of the Afcon in Tunisia, Mali and Angola,” he said.
Mike Umeh, the first vice-president of the Nigeria Football Federation, said that hopes were high and he expected nothing less than the gold trophy from the team. He explained that since the Super Eagles did not lose any warm-up match in their preparations, it was a big morale booster for the team. “There is a common parlance that says: ‘to whom much is given, much is expected.’ My dream, and surely, I’m speaking the minds of my colleagues on the board is to see Keshi and the Eagles bring home the trophy. It would not be enough to say I want to see them in the semi-final or final. There is no other way of measuring hard work than success. That means it’s the trophy or nothing,” he said.
Matthew Edafe, a sport presenter with Brila FM, Lagos, said he would expect Nigeria to, at least, qualify for the semi-final and winning the trophy would then be a bonus to the team. “Well, it had been a long time we won the Nations Cup and the last time we played in the final of the competition was in 2000, which we lost to Cameroon on penalties. I tell you, my expectation is nothing less than the gold prize and even if we get to the final without winning it, I will say thank you to the coaching crew for what they have done,” Edafe said.
Antero Afonso, coach of SC Farense of Portugal, which Super Eagles trounced 5-0 in its final friendly match, played Tuesday, January 15, said the Nigerian team has the quality to win the championship. “You have what it takes to win the championship, but you must take each game as it comes and adopt different styles for different opposition… I may not know the teams that will be at the tournament, but the team I saw today should be among the favourites to win the African Cup,” Afonso said.
Jonathan Akpoborie, former Super Eagles player, said he was not expecting anything from the Super Eagles because they were still in a rebuilding process and have little chance of reaching the final. “Because football is not Mathematics, it is possible for the Super Eagles to win but at the same time, they could crash out in the first round. People say I’m always criticising the national team handlers and administrators but with the performances exhibited, I will continue to say the truth and if that is construed as negative criticism so be it,” he added.
He also advised the Nigeria Football Federation not to give the team a target in South Africa because it is still in the process of rebuilding. “In a rebuilding process, there cannot be targets; the focus must be on the technical and tactical development and improvement of the team. Keshi should see the tournament as a factor where he will know the players that will be able to help Nigeria get to the next World Cup in Brazil.”
Joe Erico, former Super Eagles coach, believes Nigeria would do well in the tournament. He said that only time would tell whether Nigeria would emerge winner or not in South Africa. “I would not bet whether Nigeria would win or not but I can tell you that Nigeria will do well in the game,” Erico said.
Aminu Maigari, president of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, has assured that Stephen Keshi, the Super Eagles coach, would not be sacked even if he fails to qualify for the semi-finals. “It is not in our character to kick people out of their jobs unceremoniously. We are not asking him to go and win the cup. There’s no agreement between both sides that says he must win the trophy. Keshi is the one leading us to 2014 World Cup in Brazil,” he said.
Keshi himself has assured Nigerians that his team would deliver at the Afcon. He said the potentials of the players that he has assembled for the tournament was as good as that of the 1994 team that won the Afcon Cup in Tunisia. “Many Nigerians don’t know how good this team is; I see great potentials in the players and they can go places. I concentrated on the players and made sure they understand and buy into what we want to do. Nigeria is a place that you can never satisfy every person. So, we just make sure we do our best,” Keshi said. The Super Eagles first won the Afcon Cup on home soil in 1980 and then in Tunisia in 1994.