Super Eagles' Obafemi Martins (R) battles with Oswaldo Vizcarrondo during the international friendly match
By Femi Solaja
In spite of Super Eagles’ convincing 3-1 victory over Venezuela in Miami, Florida in the early hours of Thursday, Coach Stephen Keshi has said that he does not want to be carried away by the win and has urged the players to remain focused for the challenges ahead, especially the AFCON 2013 in South Africa.
It was the first in the several build-up matches for the team ahead of the African Cup of Nations next January and most of the players on parade gave a good account of themselves, but noticeable lapses were in the defence line.
Speaking on phone after the match, Keshi said he was excited by the performance of his players especially the goal scored by Nosa Igiebor.
“I have watched the replay of Igiebor’s goal; it’s simply magic and on the overall, they played well but I believe we can do better if thoroughly they are determined to conquer the rest of the continent next January in South Africa.
“We must improve on our ball work. At interval, I told them to keep the ball on the ground most of the time and decide what to do with the ball in time for the goals to come at the appropriate time. I was not surprised when the goals started coming because we dominated play with confidence and like I used to say, we are still working,” Keshi said in the interview.
The coach, who stayed back in America for a brief holiday with his family, also said that the team would regroup for the final preparations for the Nations Cup on December 17 in Abuja.
He said the invited home-based players would light up the camp, while the foreign-based players would join them between January 3 and 4, in Faro, Portugal.
He said: “We need to work together for at least two weeks and after that, we should have a strong squad that can challenge any team in the world. That is why we want everybody in camp by January 4th at the latest.”
Keshi is expected to return to the country in the second week of December but the travelling contingent to the Venezuela match will return to the country Friday on Delta Airlines.
Meanwhile, MTN Football.com reported that the coach has said Obafemi Martins has to improve to make his team as he did not see his full potentials against Venezuela Thursday.
The Levante of Spain striker made his long-awaited return to the national team.
However, the former Inter Milan star was below par and was replaced on the hour by his former Newcastle teammate, Shola Ameobi, who was making his debut for Nigeria.
“He needs to step up his game because I know he can do better than he did because he has the potentials but I did not see much of him,” said Keshi after the game.
‘Obagoal’ shone in training in the USA, but had at least two chances to make hay against Venezuela so as to stake a strong claim for a place in the Eagles squad to next year’s Nations Cup in South Africa.
However, Martins said after the game that he wanted to score on the night but the goals simply did not come.
“But I will be back and better when we return to camp, I know what I can do and I’m sure the coach will give me the opportunity to prove myself,” he said.
Keshi scored high debutants, Ameobi and US-based Bright Dike.
“Ameobi showed his experience, holding the ball, talking to the players and he made the third goal, while Bright Dike worked very hard and will be a good addition to the team,” remarked the Nigeria coach.
Similarly, questions have been asked about the Eagles defence and Keshi admitted there were problems in that department against the South Americans ranked 48th in the world.
“Oboabona was a bit jittery and Azubuike struggled and it was later in the game that we discovered he has a back problem,” said Keshi.
“Otherwise I was impressed with (Solomon) Kwambe and Elderson Echiejile in the defence. I was also not surprised about Ejide. That he has been on the bench did not mean he is not a good goalkeeper. He was once the No.1 goalkeeper and he did an excellent job, played a captain’s game.
“It was a tough game because most of the players have not played together before as we only had one training session together on Tuesday. So, we did well against a team who have been together for much longer especially in the second half as we increased our tempo and we tried to keep the ball.
“It was a good result and we hope to continue with the same spirit,” he said.