BY JACOB AJOM
The second leg of the 2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifier between Nigeria and Ivory Coast comes up in Abidjan in a fortnight but Super Eagles Coach and players are already thinking and talking beyond Ivory Coast.
The morning after the 4-1 drubbing of Ivory Coast at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna, the African Continental Hotel camp of the Super Eagles was quiet, even as the players and officials prepared to depart to their various destinations. However, one thing was clear: the degree of optimism and assurance among them was high.
From the coach to the fringe members of the team, the answer was the same; we can do it. Chibuzor Okonkwo, one of the longest serving players in the Eagles squad was the first to speak with Saturday Vanguard sports.
“Our result in Kaduna shows our statement of intent. When we go to Abidjan, we are not going there to defend. We will attack and at least score a goal. Who says we cannot beat them in their backyard because there is no way they can score four goals against us.”
He noted that the Elephants whose performance was overshadowed by the two red cards they got will play like wounded lions in the second leg. Notwithstanding, he remains confident of a positive outcome. “We have a very good team and all it takes to be in South Africa in January 2014, I don’t see Ivory Coast stopping us.”
Beyond Ivory Coast, Okonkwo said Nigeria will qualify for CHAN and go to South Africa as African champions. “We are not just going there to answer present. We will go there and bring the trophy.”
Another Super Eagles player who dressed but did not see action, Dele Olorundare believes the 4-1 advantage from the first leg is enough to see Nigeria through.
“We can beat Ivory Coast in their home,” he opined, adding, “All I have to say is victory. We will go there and see to it that we qualify for CHAN.”
Head coach, Stephen Keshi also shares this optimism as he harbours that strong belief that his wards will go to Abidjan and achieve the CHAN 2014 ticket.
“Although I am not God to predict what will happen in Abidjan, I see that we are carrying a huge advantage into that match. We still have at least two weeks to prepare for the match. We are going there to play football. We have a great chance,” the big boss said.