Eagles assure Nigerians of World Cup ticket, selection my main challenge, says Eguavoen
• Minister, Pinnick, coaches meet with players in England
Super Eagles’ Technical Adviser, Augustine Eguavoen, has assured Nigerians that he has a team that will beat Ghana to the Qatar 2022 World Cup. The coach, who told his compatriots to be rest assured that Nigeria will be at the world championship, however, said his major problem, which he described as a good headache, is selecting 11 players from the array of stars available for the team.
Speaking during a meeting with some top officials of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), led by its president, Amaju Pinnick, and some England-based players, Eguavoen noted the desire and determination of the players to beat Ghana, both home and away, next month.
He said: “It is always an honour to serve the country. I was impressed with the high level of discipline and commitment of the players at the AFCON in Cameroun and I feel privileged to lead the group.
“We have two tough games against Ghana next month, but I am not too worried because we have a squad that knows it is a mountain that we have to climb. We have a good headache to deal with – which is a surplus of good players. I want to thank the government and the NFF for all the support during the AFCON; we will need even greater support for the World Cup play-off.”
In the entourage to London, were NFF President, Pinnick, Secretary General, Mohammed Sanusi, Super Eagles’ secretary, Dayo Enebi, Eguavoen and head coach, Emmanuel Amuneke.
The Eagles had earlier held a zoom meeting with Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, where they got the assurance that the Federal Government is behind their quest to qualify for Qatar 2022.
Explaining the trip to England in a tweet Tuesday night, Pinnick said, “aside the chance to introduce the new members of the coaching crew to the team, it was also a chance to have ‘clear the air’ talks. And I am so proud of the commitment and zeal I am seeing and getting from the team.
“From players like Etebo, Kelechi, Troost and new lad, Lookman, the message was and is clear; we will play at the World Cup and give a good account of ourselves.
“We are not going to Qatar to make up the numbers. We are going to give it our best shot.”
“Make no mistake. World Cup qualification is non-negotiable. We are putting all of our efforts on getting the ticket. Our prayers and support are invaluable in this regard. God willing, we will achieve our goals because we will not relent.”
Earlier at the virtual meeting with Dare and NFF chieftains, the players acknowledged the challenged posed by Ghana, saying it is a battle they will win.
Captain Ahmed Musa said: “The FIFA World Cup is the biggest football tournament in the world and every player wants to feature there. A good number of the players in the team now have not been there, and the few of us that have been there, want to experience it again.”
“We just want the NFF to help us get enough fans into the Abuja Stadium for the second leg. We will go to Ghana and dig our feet and ensure we get a result. We must admit that Ghana also want to qualify and they have a strong team.
“The return leg will be crucial and we are ready for the battle, but we want our fans to be in there cheering us on.”
Also speaking on the World Cup qualifier, Amuneke said he was privileged to work with the Super Eagles. He added: “I have worked with some of the players in the U17 and U20 teams, and some others I have known for many years. We have the team to earn the World Cup ticket and we will put our best foot forward for each game.”
In his opening remark, Dare extolled the players for their efforts at the AFCON and expressed belief that lessons have been learnt from the defeat to Tunisia in the Round of 16.
“I know you are still unhappy about the loss to Tunisia, but I want you to visit the anger of the defeat by Tunisia on Ghana. We all know about the history of the rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana in football, and this is one fixture that we must not lose.
“We know that dogged spirit is there in you, and we also want you to see yourself as one big family. We have confidence in you that you can do it and will give you all the support. Coaches Eguavoen and Amuneke have smooth access to the NFF President and he will always be ready to provide what you need. As for the pitch of the MKO Abiola National Stadium, we have experts working there all the time and I assure you it will be in perfect condition for the match.”
Nigeria, who have featured in six of the past seven FIFA World Cup finals, slug it out with the Black Stars in Cape Coast on March 24 before both teams tango again at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on March 27.