Nigeria temporary coach, Stephen Keshi, says he is bent on “making Nigerians proud” later on Saturday, when the African champions hosts Congo in a 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier in Calabar.
Nigeria have a narrow head-to-head (W3, D2 L2) advantage over the ‘Diables Rouge’ going into the 5:00pm (Nigerian time) kick-off, the most memorable- from the hosts’ perspective- of those fixtures being a home and away win in the 1994 World Cup qualifiers.
The Afcon holders have been dogged by several administrative controversies of late on the back of the bonus row, which overshadowed their World Cup campaign in Brazil a couple of months ago, nonetheless; the 52-year-old insists all that matters this term in the UJ Esuene Stadium pitch is maximum points.
“I just want to win the game against Congo on Saturday and make Nigerians proud and that is all,” Keshi said in an interview with Cafonline.
“Of course, they (Super Eagles) can do it. If they have the desire to do it, they can do it. Since we started intensive training on Saturday, I have seen a high level of concentration and the willingness to play a good game. We would be ready to play good football against Congo on Saturday.”
Fellow Group A opposition South Africa hit the ground running with an emphatic 3-0 win away in Sudan on Friday. Keshi and his wards are expected to fly out of the country on Sunday to Cape Town, where they face leaders Bafana Bafana in their second game in the space of five days.
Quizzed on the challenges of having to play two games in quick successions, Keshi replied: “We don’t have any problem with that since that is also applicable to South Africa and every other team in the qualifying series. We just need to organise ourselves because we already have our game plans; we just need to be focused on the game against Congo first.”
Soccer-loving Nigerians are optimistic for a serene atmosphere at the helm of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) following the recent spate of distractions and with a long-standing Fifa suspension threat yet to be settled.
A victory against coach Claude Leroy’s side could at least ease tension, amidst expectation that, come Monday, the Aminu Maigari-led executive committee would have been granted space to carry out a Fifa order- as spelt out in a letter dated September 3.
However, coach Keshi reiterates the need for “focus”, stressing the Eagles’s job is only on the pitch.
“We don’t want to get involved with that because that is just administrative problems and it has nothing to do with what we do on the pitch. My job is on the pitch and we have told the players the need for us to be focused on our jobs squarely on the pitch. Our own job is to make Nigerians proud and happy and our focus now is Saturday’s game against Congo.”
Goalkeepers: Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel); Chigozie Agbim (Gombe United, Nigeria); David Obiazor (El-Kanemi Warriors)
Defenders: Elderson Echiejile (Monaco FC, France); Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC, Israel); Efe Ambrose (Celtic FC, Scotland); Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor FC, Turkey); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves, Nigeria); Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough FC, England); Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars, Nigeria)
Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea FC, England); Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio, Italy); Ramon Azeez (Almeria FC, Spain); Joel Obi (Inter Milan, Italy); Nosa Igiebor (Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel); Omatsone Aluko (Hull City, England)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce FC, Turkey); Uche Nwofor (unattached); Nnamdi Oduamadi (FC Crotone, Italy); Gbolahan Salami (Warri Wolves); Christian Osaguona (Enugu Rangers)
Goalkeepers: Christoffer Mafoumbi, Chancel Massa, Pavel N’Dzila.
Defenders: Francis N’Ganga, Igor N’Ganga, Marvin Baudry, Arnold Bouka Mutu Boris Moubhio Dimitri Bissiki, Manick Itoua, Baron Kibamba.
Midfielders: Prince Oniangue, Julsy Boukama-Kaya, Césaire Gandzé ,Wisdom Babele, Hardy Binguila, Saira Issambet.
Strikers: Thievy Bifouma, Fode Dore, Franci Litsingi ,Ladislas Douniama, Kader Bidimbou, Sylver Ganvoula, Christmas Mokouka.