Nigeria missed the chance of winning her fourth AFCON title in Egypt 2019.
This was the verdict of Sylvanus Okpala, former Nigeria international and a former Super Eagles assistant under late Stephen Keshi that won the 2013 edition in South Africa.
The former coach of Rangers International Football Club said the Super Eagles squad that went to Egypt did well by winning bronze, but they could have done better.
“If you check critically, the players in this Eagles squad (to Egypt 2019) had more quality than the Stephen Keshi-led team that won the 2013 AFCON in South Africa,” Okpala said.
Continuing, Okpala said, “we won bronze, fine. But this team was supposed to win this tournament in Egypt, if they were well guided and if they played well against Algeria. Our central defenders did a good job against Tunisia but were flatfooted against Algeria. They were off duty that day.
“I don’t subscribe to this talk about the team being young. In 1980 when we won the Nations Cup I was barely 19. There is no guarantee that all these players will still be there in the next two years?” he asked, pointing out that in under two years, some of those who were at the World Cup are no longer in the squad.
“When people criticise Daniel Akpeyi, I laugh at them. He was one of the best players against Algeria because he made some very crucial saves that could have given us a very embarrassing headline against Algeria. There was not much he could do on the free kick. It is Ndidi that should be blamed for committing an offence near the box at that crucial time. Akpeyi did his best.
On Gernot Rohr, Okpala simply said, “I didn’t employ him. He has done well but could have done better, considering the talent he went to Egypt with.”