By Olawale Ajimotokan
Yakubu Aiyegbeni Monday pleaded with Nigerians to stop dwelling on his World Cup 2010 misadventure where his failure to convert a goal from an open scoring position resulted in his subsequent exclusion from the national team.
The Blackburn striker is one of the players expected to fly to Kigali Monday night after Coach Stephen Keshi recalled him to the Super Eagles.
Speaking with reporters after the morning work out, Aiyegbeni, noted that the public hatred for him was not out of place as no one would have expected him to miss the open goal against South Korea.
“The way the public reacted to my situation is not unusual. When you play for the national team, you have clear scoring chances and you miss it, the fans will not be happy. I don’t feel bad as I am determined to put that behind me and move ahead. It is football and it depends on how you handle it. In my case I handled the crisis well by scoring for my club. This is my country and I want to transfer my club form to the national team. I want to put that behind me and I wish to appeal to the public to let that be a matter that should belong to the past,” Aiyegbeni said.
He said he was happy to rejoin the group after almost two years of frustrating shut out from the national team.
Though the Eagles which is made up of a fine blend of greenhorns and experienced players are favoured to win in Rwanda, Yakubu was quick to warn that the Amavuvi would not be easily annihilated.
The bulky forward, who has scored 21 goal in 56 international matches, warned that the Eagles have learned from the experience of the recent Africa Cup of Nations where the form guide was upset by a Zambian side that no one even gave a chance of advancing to the quarter final, let alone winning the continental showpiece.
Seventeen players except Vincent Enyeama, Ike Uche and Joel Obi, who arrived Monday evening, featured in the mid morning training held on the artificial turf of the National Stadium.
West Brom striker, Ozaze Odemwengie likened Wednesday’s crunchy match as a remedial test which Nigeria can ill afford to flaunt following their failure to reach the last Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
He reckoned that though the route to South Africa is laden with mines as Nigeria, if they overcome Rwanda, will meet one of the 16 teams that went to the last finals, the Eagles are not scared of the impending challenge as they are still considered as one of the top teams in Africa.
Emphasis was placed on positioning and tactics by Keshi at the training. It was also easy to guess which players will likely be on the starting sheet.
Keshi told reporters that though reports from Kigali suggested that it is raining and hot in Rwanda, the Eagles were ready for the mental test as the match will be played on artificial pitch.