Super Eagles marksman Emmanuel Emenike expects his first visit to Brazil to “be a memorable and successful one”, as he prepares to lead Nigeria’s frontline against Group F foes in the Fifa World Cup.
The 27-year-old has downplayed fans’ expectations of him in an EXCLUSIVE interview with AfricanFootball.com, admitting it takes collective effort for a team to be crowned champions.
Coming into Monday’s opening game against Iran on the back of the Turkish championship victory in his first season with Istanbul-based Fenerbahce, Emenike is well aware of the task ahead of the African champions, were they to succeed in becoming the first team from the CAF region to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.
“I don’t want to be too boastful because it’s Iran,” Emenike, who has scored 10 times in 22 caps for Nigeria, said. “They are here at the World Cup because they are a good team.
“I won’t write them off. We will be at our best to start on a winning note looking down on them won’t be good for us.
“Iran have nothing to lose against us, we must be up and doing because there are great expectations. I am not promising anything for now, it’s too early but we need to fight.”
He was named brand ambassador for telecommunication giants, Globacom early this year, but says he is not under added pressure to impress at the tournament, adding that “his wish for the team is beyond personal glory”.
From the period in-between last year’s African Cup of Nations (Afcon) till date, ‘Emenike’ has become household name among every football-loving Nigerians- synonymous to ‘Rashidi Yekini’ pre-USA ’94.
Even plaudits envisage his impact in the Eagles’ campaign on South American soil, while coach Stephen Keshi believes “it’s his time to shine”.
Despite been marked closely by opponents in all of Nigeria’s warm-up matches- and failing to get among the goals against the likes of Mexico, Greece and the USA- fans are yet as infatuated about him as ever.
“It is wrong (fans are relying on me),” Emenike said. “I appreciate the fans for their love. I am not the messiah in Eagles, I am here to contribute my quota to the team. If I am opportuned to score, I will, and if it is any of my team-mates, I will celebrate because what matters is the result and not the goal-scorers.
“So, I need them and they need me to make the team great. I will not bow to any opponent until the final whistle.”
Nigeria get their fifth World Cup appearance on in Monday’s group opener against Iran, before playing Bosnia-Hercegovina and Argentina.
Few have predicted three-time African champions, Nigeria, to scale the group stages hurdle along with two-time world champions and favourites Argentina, but Emenike believes the world soccer showpiece could entertain more ‘Black Horses’ than already pin-pointed.
“What I know is that our first match against Iran is very crucial,” Emenike explained.
“This World Cup is going to be interesting and full of surprises. There are so many wounded lionsgoing to Brazil.”