Nigeria coach ‘vindicated’ after leading Super Eagles to final

2013-02-07 11:38

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After guiding Nigeria to their first Africa Cup of Nations final in 13 years, coach Stephen Keshi said he felt vindicated as knives were already out for him.

The Super Eagles walloped Mali 4-1 to advance to the final of the tournament.

The Chief, as he is known, said there were lots of problems prior to the tournament which saw him leaving out some big name players.

The likes of Obafemi Martins and Peter Odemwingie were left out of the team as Keshi brought 17 players who had never played in the Africa Cup of Nations before.

“I ended up leaving some of them out of the team for reasons best known to me. Lots of Nigerians don’t know what is going on in the team. But sometimes it is not about skill but the mentality and attitude of the players,” said Keshi.

He said he needed players who could work for the team and not put their interests first.

Keshi dedicated the victory to all Nigerians saying they have missed a great deal over the past few years. “We wanted this victory to put smiles back on their faces and hopefully we will do so again on Sunday.”

He said he was looking forward to the final but did not know whether his future would be with the Super Eagles after Sunday’s game.

Keshi, Nigeria’s 1994 Africa Cup of Nations winning captain, felt it was too soon to compare that team with the current team.

“It took five years to build the 1994 team and this one has been together for five weeks. Don’t get us wrong, we are just growing and I don’t think we are there yet and we can’t lose a game. This is a building process and it will take us some time,” said Keshi, who was the last captain to lift the trophy.

He said the 1994 squad had a wonderful spirit and they were like brothers. “We had big characters and we were like a family. If the same atmosphere and mentality can prevail here we will go far. If I see a talent out there and any player who can provide something tangible for the team I will call them up because we are still building. There is a lot of talent and potential.”

He said he was happy with how the team has responded to his coaching philosophy.

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