Zambia’s coach, Herve Renard
By Duro Ikhazuagbe, with agency report
Head Coach of the Chipolopolo of Zambia, Herve Renard is unimpressed with the Super Eagles build up to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and is sure of topping the Group C pairing.
Zambia arrived in Nelspruit, venue of the Group C pairing late Sunday night ahead of the other three teams in the Group C that include Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia.
But Renard insisted Sunday that the current crop of players in the Nigerian line up were not of the same quality with the 1994 squad led by Coach Stephen Keshi that denied them the AFCON title in Tunisia.
After watching the Super Eagles labour to a 0-0 draw with Cape Verde last Wednesday in Faro, Portugal, Renard was sarcastic in dismissing Keshi’s wards.
"I think you saw Nigeria the other day against Cape Verde. Do you think it was the best this time?" Renard said.
"I don’t think so."
"So on January 25 against Nigeria, it will be a different game, it will be a tough game," the Frenchman said despite also posting same 0-0 score line against Norway at the weekend.
"But I can assure you we want to finish top of our group like in 2010 and 2012. It’s not easy, but we want go as far as possible because this team has fantastic team spirit."
The two sides are set for an early Africa Cup of Nations showdown in their penultimate Group C match on January 25 at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
And Renard reiterated that he was also itching for payback time against the Eagles after the latter ejected them in the quarterfinals of the 2010 edition hosted by Angola.
Meanwhile, Eagles Keshi has been accused of gambling with a half-fit Gabriel Reuben listed in Nigeria’s final AFCON squad.
The Kano Pillars defensive midfielder has not fully recovered from a long-term groin injury contrary to official statements.
His recovery was also slowed down when he went down to chicken pox before the warm-up game against Catalonia in Spain.
“There was a big meeting over Reuben for the Nations Cup because he has not fully recovered from his groin injury,” a Nigeria Football Federation official hinted Sunday.
“Right now he cannot deliver long passes because of the injury, he can only make short passes. But Keshi has insisted he is too crucial in his plans to be left out.
“The player also lost about four days of training after he suffered chicken pox and so was quarantined and did not travel with the rest of the squad to Spain for the match against Catalonia.”
MTNFootball.com further learnt Keshi plans a defensive midfield combination of Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi and Reuben in South Africa.
“As the situation is now, Mikel will now be the one supplying the long balls, while Reuben will keep to short passes so as to avoid a relapse of his groin problem,” another official informed.
Reuben only played his first match on Saturday against modest Dutch club Sparta Rotterdam as a second-half substitute since the Eagles began a training camp in Portugal at the end of last year.