January 21, (THEWILL) – The caretaker coach of the Super Eagles, Augustine Eguavoen, has taken an expansive view of the team’s journey so far at the TotalEnergies 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and has asked for the players to be accorded the praise they have earned.
In his view, there was a lot of pessimism about the team and the coaching staff before the Games commenced. He believes nobody gave his team a chance heading into the 2021 AFCON, but they have resolutely earned people’s respect following a strong start to the competition.
So far, the Super Eagles have been the best team in the tournament. Not only did they claim maximum points in all three of their group games, they put in six goals and conceded just once via a penalty kick.
At the conclusion of the Group stage, Eguavoen’s charges were the only team to win all three group games as they completely overwhelmed their opponents. This remarkable performance has come through their resilience as few observers gave the three-time African champions a chance going into the competition.
The pessimism was understandable. After firing former manager Gernot Rohr less than a month before the tournament, expectations were low, and the absence of four important players, who were expected to give the Nigerian team a clinical edge in front of goal, did not help matters.
After the team’s 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau in their last Group D match, Eguavoen was quick to emphasise this fact. Speaking frankly, the 56-year-old said: “From the first game, nobody gave us a chance, and we came, we did the job collectively.
“Again, I will not stop praising the players because I told them to express themselves, be committed, you don’t have any other country to play for except for Nigeria.”
Eguavoen also stated that doubters of the Nigerian team prior to the competition have now transformed to fans, but that he would not allow the compliments to affect the team’s performance.
“Now people are thinking and starting to respect Nigeria, but that does not mean it will get into our head. We will always respect our opponent. We will play them with full strength.
“We will play them the way we played against anybody.”
On Sunday, the Super Eagles face Tunisia in a second-round match in their quest for a fourth AFCON crown.