AUSTIN Eguavoen was an integral part of the Super Eagles team that won Nigeria’s second African Nations Cup trophy at the Tunisia 1994 edition of the competition.
He was also there when the Super Eagles dazzled the world at the U.S.A 1994 World Cup, beating such countries as Bulgaria, which went ahead to play in the semi-final, and Greece. But he is still pained by the manner Nigeria lost their second round game to Italy despite leading in the game up till the dying moments.
The Super Eagles former defender on Monday revisited the 1994 World Cup and how the team lost an opportunity to win or move close to winning the Mundial due to inexperience.
Eguaveon, who led a team of the 1994 Super Eagles squad to a meeting with the Minister of Sports and Chairman of the NSC, Bolaji Abdulahi, in Abuja, said a famous victory over Italy in the second round would have propelled the team to beat other countries in line to winning the World Cup for Africa for the first time.
He still regrets that the Azzuri recovered with two minutes of play left to break Nigeria’s hearts, with Roberto Baggio scoring an extra-time penalty goal to secure a 2-1 victory.
The then Eagles stand-in captain, who is currently the chief coach of Nigeria National League side, COD of Lagos, conceded the foul that was ruled a penalty infraction for Italy’s equaliser.
He recalls that Nigeria had the most balanced team at U.S.A ‘94, but failed to handle the tempo because it was the first time the players were appearing at the World Cup.
‘’Our loss to Italy in 1994 had nothing to do with a bonus dispute. It was caused by our lack of experience. We would have gone far and even won the World Cup if we had some experience.
“Then we had high calibre players like Finidi George, Jay Jay Okocha, Emmanuel Amunike and Uche Okechukwu,’’ Eguavoen reminisced.
The Enyimba of Aba former coach also talked on the call for a code of conduct for national team players, saying it was necessary for team discipline.
He, however, pleaded that the details of the code of conduct should not be made a media issue, saying the document would make the players more responsible for their action when on national duty.
Eguavoen said the code of conduct issue should not be overheated to affect the team’s preparation for the last World Cup qualifying match against the flames Malawi, next month in Calabar.