Former Nigeria coach, Clemens Westerhof has told Completesports.com that Super Eagles’ bronze medal feat at the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt is not a bad result despite his earlier conviction that the Gernot Rohr’s men had all it takes to scoop the trophy.
Westerhof had during the tournament insisted Super Eagles were title favourites given the array of talented Nigerian players in various clubs in Europe, but a semifinal 2-1 defeat by Riyad Mahrez-inspired Desert Foxes of Algeria left the three-time African champions out of the title race and had to overcome Carthage Eagles of Tunisia 1-0 in the bronze match to ensure Nigeria did not leave Egypt empty handed.
It was the Super Eagles’ eighth bronze medal win in the history of the Africa’s premier football championship.
And Westerhof who was in charge when the Super Eagles won the trophy for the second time in 1994 in Tunisia reckons it’s not an entirely bad campaign in Egypt.
Westerhof’s five-year successful career as Super Eagles manager (1989-1994) started with silver medal at Algiers ’90 and bronze at Senegal ’92.
“I said the Super Eagles would win the cup in Egypt, but they didn’t,” Westerhof said when he spoke to Completesports.com on Wednesday.
“I was disappointed when they lost to Madagascar. It was shameful, but they beat Cameroon, I knew they were good to come (home) with the cup.
“But against Algeria, they lost again. But it’s good to beat Tunisia and win the bronze.
“Gold (trophy) was far. Silver, also far, but bronze, yes it is fair. It is good (to win bronze) than not winning anything,” he reiterated from his native country, the Netherlands.
On the future of the Super Eagles, the ‘Dutch-Gerian’ posits that the current squad have the potential to excel in the future.
“They are still young players, yes, they can,” he stated.
On the retirement of two key players of the team, captain Mikel Obi and AFCON top scorer, Odion Ighalo, Westerhof says it’s the prerogative of players to decide when to quit but feels Ighalo’s exit was too early.
“Mikel, yes. But Ighalo, he did well at the Nations Cup and I think it’s too early (for him) to stop playing (for the national team),” he remarked.
By Sab Osuji