Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi is confident that his players will not fail to beat Congo in Saturday’s African Cup of Nations qualifier in Point Noire. In this interview with JOHNNY EDWARD, he said the players are well focused to ensure Nigeria secure the maximum point on Saturday.
Coach how prepared are the Eagles for the final round of the AFCON qualifiers?
The response has been fair enough. Everybody is in camp and ready to make the difference for the team which is why they are here. I have no worries whatsoever.
We have had our first training session and I believe we will get our rhythm right before we depart even if three sessions isn’t enough but the boys are prepared mentally for what the Congolese will throw at them on and off the pitch. I just want Nigerians to support the team all the way and we won’t disappoint them.
What lessons did you learn from the defeat to Congo in September and how is the team going to correct the mistakes the team made in the team?
A lot and that’s tactical. I would not want to discuss how my team will play on Saturday but I want to assure you that the Eagles will be aggressive from the blast of the whistle. I’m very happy because step by step, we’ve moved on and found the spirit of the group.
We’ve found in the last two games that we’re pressing a lot and we win back the ball quickly.
Most of the players invited haven’t been active for their respective team for weeks now. Don’t you think their rustiness could affect the game plan?
I’m yet to see that for now because the team will be put through some sessions to certify that. As professionals, you are either playing or not. It simply doesn’t take anything away from their quality and our game plan for Congo.
We have two games to win and we should channel our strength on that and not picking holes on who plays or not. We have to play, we have to win and everyone who plays has to be very strong because there will be no excuses.
Does that also give you an insight on why some of them are not regulars in their clubs?
Yes, but not for you to judge my players.
Okay coach what should we be expected from your team as they depart on Thursday for Congo?
The very best, If we can carry on from where we stopped against Sudan, it will give us a very good chance of winning which I believe we will. We are quietly confident against Congo and we have to be focused on what we want to achieve from the match.
The aim is definitely to qualify for the Nations Cup and I really want to get the Eagles playing to their potentials again.
Congo’s Thievy Bifouma is in rich vein of form for Spanish side Almeria where Ramon Azeez plays and he is no stranger to the Eagles, how do you think your boys can stop him in the match?
He is a good player but I won’t be assigning a player to him because I will play to the strength of my team. It was unfortunate we lost to them in the first leg match played here in Nigeria.
We have lots of qualities to hurt Congo so I will rather focus on that than assigning a player to him. No doubt, he’s part of the team and his contribution helps his team. The Eagles are confident and Nigerians will be happy at the end of the game.
Where do you think the focus should be – the defence, midfield or attack?
We will focus on all components so they can work as a unit. The motive of the team should be collective and not individual. Even those sitting on the bench should have the same goal and direction with those on the field of play so that things can work out for them.
Football has gone beyond building a team around three to four players. It is a team sport and we can only win when everyone on the team is doing what he should do.
What is your assessment of Nigerian Football in the outgoing year? Will you say we’ve faired very well or we are just there?
Well, I will say it has not been bad compared to last or previous years but we cannot also say that we have gotten there. We are in the road of constructing and things are coming up gradually but it all depend on how people see it especially those managing the games.
What their plans and objectives are for the country when it comes to the game.
I think it’s something we all have to analyse and evaluate and see what we’ve done, where we want to be and how we can get there. There is prospect but this doesn’t point out to the fact that we have arrived because the long is still long.
Wishing you all the best coach
Nigerians should pray for us.