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AFCON: WE’LL STRIVE NOT TO DISAPPOINT NIGERIANS – EGUAVOEN

Super Eagles interim coach, Austin Eguavoen, in an interview with the media in Garoua, Cameroon and with CHARLES OGUNDIYA present said former coach of the team, Gernot Rohr, should be given credit for assembling the current players in the national team. Excerpts…

Do you want to agree with Nigerians that the competition is just starting?

It is a fact that we are starting our competition now; when you play, you cannot upturn it, it is the knockout stage, you have to try to win it otherwise you are going home.

What will you say about the record of winning all group games at the AFCON?

You did it in 2006 as coach and now as interim coach. It gives us more confidence going into the round of 16; nine points but we have to be wary also, everyone that wants to play against Nigeria will try to raise their game because they are playing against the Super Eagles, we have to respect every team, play all the games with all seriousness and commitment.

Achieving same feat as you did in 2006, how does that make you feel?

It makes me very good and happy, not me alone, but all the team and the biggest actors are always the players. I always try to make them comfortable, I continue to encourage them, and now we are in the round of 16, we must take things more serious.

How would you rate the newcomers against Guinea Bissau?

They did very well, we needed three points and they got it; it was a collective effort because all the players put in their best for the result.

What would you say about the performance of a player like Sadiq Umar?

I’m happy with how Sadiq played, he was a bit nervous in the first two games, but we gave him the confidence to do better. We decided to start him against Guinea Bissau to see how he will react from not coming from the bench and I must confess he did a good job on the pitch. There is always room for improvement and I believe he will get better with more games.

Are we likely to see more of Sadiq Umar in subsequent game?

We have 27 players, so we can call on any 11 players to play any game.

Do you have a team in mind to face in the round of 16?

No, I don’t; to be champion you will need to play everybody, so like I said, we don’t have a choice, whoever comes our way, we will take it, we will just try to win the game.

What would be your word to Nigerians both here in Cameroon and back at home and other parts of the world?

We have been enjoying a lot of supports and prayers from people from our country and we want it to continue; we all know what football is about, how passionate our people are, and the boys are ready to do the job. Going to the round of 16, they should have faith and hope, confidence in the team and we will try not to disappoint them.

Making the players feel like a family, would you say that was part of the success witnessed so far?

It has to be because I always told them that we are not going to have a perfect game for 90minutes, but they must be able to forget about mistakes, they should always be their brother’s keeper, same things I always tell my backroom staff who are my colleagues; there will surely be disagreement, but we always come out with resolution, so it means we are united and focused.

People already clamouring for you to take the Super Eagles job on a permanent basis, that you are the best man for the job, would you consider this?

Nobody is best for the job. Those craving for me to take the job permanently I say thank you and why not. I’m happy with the position I occupy in the NFF but if that opportunity comes why not but when we get to that river, we will cross it. I think a coach is a coach, everyone has his own style of management, methods and leadership. For me, foreign coach or local coach, a coach is a coach. It does not matter. It is not so easy. I was part of a group that interviewed some of the coaches for the job and as the Technical Director of the NFF, I had to be involved and if the NFF gives me the job why not but it is up to them to decide. If a contract has been signed then we have to respect it. The only thing I can guarantee is that we will have a good working relationship because I know the terrain, he does not and we have to make sure we provide a platform to be relaxed and I will support him 100 per cent because it is not about me but the country first.

What should we expect in the next game?

We are going to play to our full strength, we are going to play the same way we played against any of our opponents, we are not going to drop our guards, in the round of 16, we are going to use the same approach, same strength and we are going to train more for penalties.

How were you able to manage to get the team to this quality especially with criticisms due to the performance of their before coming for AFCON?

Nobody gave this team a chance before the Nations Cup, but we have proved doubters wrong with the way we have played here. We will keep doing the talking on the pitch irrespective of what people have said or are still saying. The group stage is now behind us and we look forward to the knockout round which is very important. This is not the time to rest, but the time to work very hard. We hope things will keep going in our favour.

Despite the victories, it is obvious that your team has been creating chances but not putting them away, are you worried?

It is not expected that the game will be smooth for 90 minutes. Our major concern is conversion. We have worked on that and we hope to see improvements.

There was a new lease of life in the team after the sacking of the previous manager, what changed?

Football is a profession and when I want to do a job, I do it maximally. Playing for the national team is not anybody’s right, it is a privilege, so when you have the opportunity, you have to take such opportunity and use it well because there are so many people out there looking for same opportunity. Attitude and also the freedom to move and express themselves, I asked them to see me as father, brother and friend and also be free with me. For the backroom staff, I call them my colleagues because we are here for same purpose. But we need to give Gernot Rohr the credit for assembling these talents. He brought the team together and we are enjoying that moment now.

 

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