BY JACOB AJOM, Eddie Akalonu
Former captain of the national team Peter Rufai has backed the Super Eagles to succeed at the forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations tournament in South Africa, saying, “the boys look ready to explode.”
In a chat with Sports Vanguard, Rufai who was part of the 1994 squad that won the trophy last for Nigeria said his confidence in the team stemmed from the fact that he believed in the technical capacity of Coach Stephen Keshi and the team he was building.
“Having played the game both at home and abroad, and featured in numerous Cup of Nations as both player and coach, Keshi is trying to bring back the Eagles of old. From what I have seen of the team so far, these boys are going to prove their worth in South Africa,” Rufai said.
He observed that the combined experience of members of the technical crew has put the Eagles in an advantageous position over other teams. “They were all great players in their days and proven coaches with track records, their experiences would, no doubt, rub off on the team,” Rufai reasoned.
He said the team should not be judged from the friendly games they have played so far. “In a friendly, it is hard to put up your one hundred per cent. Come to think of it, it is so close to the tournament; the fear of injury and all that. Even at that, we could still see glimpses of collective game play. They were calm and never appeared nervous under any situation. They are cool. I am sure they will explode in South Africa,” he affirmed.
Rufai, who now runs a football academy in Lagos, said the Stephen Keshi side “is young with some very talented players. All they need is our support and prayers.”
…. They can surmount challenges, says Chukwuma
As the African Cup of Nations gets underway this weekend in South Africa, former vice chairman of the Nigeria Football Association, NFA, Chief Gabriel Chukwuma has challenged the Eagles to go into the competition and give a good account of themselves. Chief Chukwuma said that Nigerians do not only expect a lot from them but are also eager to have good result that has been missing for so long in football.
“I like them to bear in mind that opposition will be tough, standards will be high but I do also know they can face up to tough challenges and provide a new road map for success of football because Nigerians expect a lot from them and that include giving their all to win now that the chance is there to grab,” he said.