BY ONOCHIE ANIBEZE
After the 3-1 victory over Venezuela Stephen Keshi has become more confident about the team that he is building.
It’s all about the revelations and lessons that friendly matches engender. Shola Ameobi of Newcastle now has a place in Eagles but he must continue to work hard. So is Bright Dike who plays in the Major League Soccer.
Ogenwo Onazi and Nosa Igiebor stamped authority in the friendly in Florida. Overall, the performance of the players individually and as a team impressed Keshi and he is now appealing to Nigeria Football Federation to ensure Eagles play at least three more quality friendly matches before they land in Southfriendly matches before they land in South Africa for the Nations Cup. Keshi spoke from San Francisco, USA where he had gone to briefly reunite with his family immediately after the friendly with Venezuela in Florida. He returns this week. Read his comments from USA:
“What happened in Florida was good. I saw in our team what I wanted to see. They worked and marked well. They worked as a unit. Everybody was a worker against Venezuela that played their full squad. Shola Ameobi was so mature and Dike showed he has power and speed. The result of this is that Eagles will be more competitive from now. If a player cannot give us 110 percent then he may not have a place in our team. I will need at least three quality friendly matches before the Nations Cup. I will prefer that African countries are among them. The matches will give me a better picture of the team we will present in South Africa although everything is in my head now. The good thing is that our team is now more competitive. Anybody that comes into camp now will sit tight. It will not be a piece of cake to play for Eagles. We are determined to achieve that because that’s what will help us in South Africa and the World Cup qualifiers.”
Keshi started building a new team when he was announced the new coach last year after Nigeria failed to qualify for the last Nations Cup. He started infusing local players in the team and it really paid off as the players stood out in matches, sometimes excelling more than the Europe-based players.
He decided to leave out the likes of Osaze Odewengie, Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Dickson Etuhu after the nightmare performance in Kigali, Rwanda in February. His blending work has continued unlike the coaches before him who saw nothing good in the local players.