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What are your expectations from the African champions in Brazil? Do you see them doing better than they did in their previous appearances?
I do not belong to the category of people who are already saying that the team will get to the semifinal. I am a great believer in the Super Eagles ability to excel in any international tournament but I strongly believe that before we can begin to run, we must first crawl, not to talk of flying into the semifinal just like that. I am patriotic but it is important to put things into context and not start counting your chicks before they are hatched.
Even if we are so good, we cannot say for now that we are getting through or not to the quarterfinal round. But I see us doing well if the players show enough passion and discipline on the pitch.
Who in your consideration are the players who you feel will make the difference for us in Brazil?
The team is essentially a good and strong one. The players have shown that they can hold their own amongst their peers in the world. Like I said earlier, team is going to be vital for our success in Brazil but when you want to single out some players who can make the difference for us at the World Cup, then you cannot overlook Emmanuel Emenike, who I dare say will shine in Brazil.
Emenike will do very well for us, likewise Osaze Odemwingie. I also believe that Ogenyi Onazi will do very well for us. I also believe that Obinna Nsofor, if chosen by Coach Stephen Keshi, will do very well for us because he is strong, aggressive and determined.
Surprisingly, you did not mention Mikel Obi as one of the players who can make the difference for us.
I did not mention Mikel’s name because the Chelsea player does not believe a midfielder can score goals. He is not adventurous and only adventurous and daring players can make the difference for their teams at the World Cup. Mikel likes making square passes and that cannot do us any good in Brazil. Mikel must stop his backward movement in Brazil or else, we will suffer from his actions. He plays negative football. He must change in Brazil. The era of playing backward has stopped and I am surprised that he has not changed.
The players I mentioned earlier are those who can win games for us at the World Cup and Mikel, unfortunately, does not fall into that category, unless he changes now.
It is always unfortunate that instead of attacking and creating chances for his teammates to score, Mikel is always giving square passes. Even if that is the pattern used by his club, when he comes to Nigeria, he must change to suit our style and quest for glory.
There is a general agreement that we are taking good goalkeepers to the World Cup, except that there are concerns surrounding the suitability of Chigozie Agbim for the tournament. Do you see Daniel Akpeyi beating Agbim to the final third choice?
Generally, Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide are good goalkeepers who have earned their way to the World Cup. I do not have any fear concerning both players. Between Agbim and Akpeyi, I do not have a preference but I know the coaches will select the better one from the pair.
With about 12 days to the start of the World Cup, the talk in Nigeria has been about our match against Argentina on June 25. The focus is on Lionel Messi as people talk less of the first match against Iran on June 16 and the following one against Bosnia-Herzegovina on June 21. How dangerous can this be to our World Cup aspirations?
Honestly, I am taken aback with this our over-concentration on the match against Argentina. They are not the only ones we will play in Brazil. We know Argentina as we have played them thrice at the World Cup, so they are no strangers to us. They are our perennial opponents at the World Cup and even though they have beaten us three times, they did not get the victories on a platter of gold.
I am more concerned about Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran because they are the unknown teams and we we must be very careful with them. Unknown teams come with the surprise factor and such surprises can shock teams who take things for granted.
How do we prepare and approach our matches against Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina?
We must be very conscious of our defence because any silly mistake can be costly. In as much as we must be conscious of our defence, we must be an attacking team. World Cup is about goals and only teams who score goals get to win laurels.
What kind of World Cup do you see us having in Brazil?
World Cup is the greatest show on earth. It is where all players want to be and I hope that our boys make us proud. Even if they do not go far, I hope they will do well for themselves and the country..Speaking after the team had their first training at the Philadelphia Eagles Stadium in Philadelphia, Keshi said he was thrilled by the level of tactical and technical depth displayed by the players but noted there was need to be cautious.
“Yes, I have an idea of those who will go with us to Brazil but we will still wait till the last minute before we announce the list”, he was quoted as saying by Team’s Media Officer Ben Alaiya.
Keshi said he was delaying naming the list so as to have a second look at those who are not measuring up.
Asked when is the last minute for him to make public his list, Keshi responded “June 2 is the date we arelooking at”