Super Eagles praying after training in Faro Monday evening
Super Eagles Head Coach, Stephen Keshi has said that the current senior national team he is taking to the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa Wednesday has the potential of surpassing what the class of 1994 he captained achieved.
Keshi said in Faro, Portugal Monday that even as Nigerians remain largely sceptical about his squad, the boys will not disappoint.
"Many Nigerians don't know how good this team is, I see great potentials in them and they can go places". He then added with a clear glint in his eyes that "In Emenike I see a player who can be like Rashidi Yekini and Godfrey Obaobona will grow in his position," observed the ex-international who previously handled Togo and Mali at this level of continental soccer fiesta.
Keshi who as a player and captain of Nigeria played in five tournaments, reached the finals in three of them, believes his experiences should come in handy in making the current generation to succeed.
"Maybe I might be able to help them handle the expectations. My playing will give me the insight in how to handle the younger players - those just starting out and making their way in the national team," he noted in the interview with Supersport.com in Faro, Portugal.
But asked how he handles the pressure of coaching a country where millions of soccer fans feel they can do a better job than the man employed for it, Keshi quipped: "I just make sure I concentrate on the players and make sure they understand and buy into what we want to do. Nigeria is a place that you can never satisfy every person so we just make sure we do our best."
However, he admitted that the team is better prepared unlike previous tournaments lately.
"We have had no distractions. The NFF have been very supportive and we are just focused on the job at hand."
On the attitude of new generation Eagles towards playing for Nigeria, Keshi remembers his golden generation with nostalgia.
"I loved the attitude of the late Rashidi Yekini when it came to playing for Nigeria - he was always the first to arrive and was willing to do anything for the national team. I loved the man. The current players are different and it is also the fault of the media who hype players to all levels because of what they do at their clubs when they have played probably four or five matches for Nigeria. You need to have played consistently for the national team for at least five years before you can be called a star."
Keshi however insisted that the absence of key players like Osaze Odemwingie, Obafemi Martins, Shola Ameobi and Danny Shittu has not derailed his plans.
"Shola (Ameobi) would have brought a lot of good things and experience because when he played with us in Miami for the friendly against Venezuela he was a brilliant influence on the pitch and in the dressing room; encouraging the players and saying a lot of the things I would have said and I was so impressed I let him continue. So this young side could have done with that," concludes the Big Boss.