By Jacob Ajom
Nigeriaâ€™s home based Eagles Sunday in Abeokuta ended the long trophy drought that had hit the national team since Tunisia â€˜94 Africa Cup of Nations when they defeated hard-fighting Teranga Lions of Senegal 2-0 to win the maiden edition of the WAFU Nations Cup at the MKO Abiola stadium, Abeokuta.
Right from the beginning of the tourney the Daniel Amokachi-tutored lads left no one in doubt over their determination to lift the trophy. The likes of the Squirrels of Benin Republic, Syli Stars of Guinea and Burkina Faso suffered heavy defeats in the hands of the home-based Eagles.
With 14 goals for and one against in five matches played in ten days the home-based Eagles have just proved that with adequate preparation, they would not have fallen so easily to theirÂ Nigerien counterparts in the CHAN qualifiers.
The Eagles themselves speak sorely about the Niamey debacle and barely stopped short of indicting the football house for poor planning.
An excited captain of the side, Solomon Okpako said the WAFU trophy was compensation for their CHAN miss. â€œWe give thanks to God and hope that this is just the beginning of good things to come.â€.
Above all, the new technical adviser of the national team, Lars Lagerback has extended invitation to six of them for the London pre-World Cup training camp. Among those invited from the home-based team is the teamâ€™s first choice goal keeper, Bassey Akpan who has promised to give Vincent Enyeamah and Dele Aiyenugba a run for their money.Â coach would have the last say,â€Akpan said in a chat with Sports Vanguard.
â€œThese are players we have played with together. They are not new to me neither will I be new to them. I will do my best to brighten my chances ofÂ making it to South Africa. The coach would have the last say,â€Akpan said in a chat with Sports Vanguard.
The coach, Dan Amokachi agreed with the keeper. In a post match briefing soon after the team won the tournament, Amokachi said his players had come of age.
â€œPicking them for the World Cup camp alone is a recognition. But I tell you, any of these guys here can give the foreign-based players a run for their money.
They have proved that they can be as good as any player from anywhere. It is only painful that we failed to qualify for CHAN but that does not take away anything from these players. They have made me proud.â€
Indeed, under a very good manager, players like Ruben Gabriel, Ahmed Musa, Ibenegbu Bartholomew, Uzoenyi Ejike, Suswan Terna among others can play in any league in the world. It is only instructive that the so-called foreign pros would take the pre-World Cup camp seriously or they will see their places taken over by these home-based Eagles.