Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi says he is gaining increased confidence as the World Cup draws closer. The Super Eagles manager told reporters in Lagos on Monday that the kind of team spirit in the 2014 squad is making the collective work easier and clearly reminding him of the atmosphere around the 1994 team who have been adjudged as the best set ever to have played for Nigeria.
Keshi said, “I am beginning to see a good sign; everything is beginning to fall in place. It is good that everybody is coming together for the sake of Nigeria. There are elements of the 1994 team in my current team.”
Keshi who was the captain of the ’94 squad said it was the teamwork that helped the squad, and he is now counting on teamwork to help the 2014 squad. The current squad have yet to command the same kind of following and respect worldwide as most of the players are not regulars with their clubs, with some in less-fancied European teams.
The coach, who was in Lagos to collect the Nigeria Coach of the Year (2013) award plaque from Matchmakers Consult, could not be specific on the fitness of the players.
“I know mentally they are ready, but I need to see them again on the field because we have not seen them since we played against Mexico. My goal is to bring joy to Nigerians and to do that we need to work harder.”
He however expressed hope that the players would be fit when they assemble from Monday for the friendly match against Scotland. Keshi dismissed the several reports which alleged that some players listed in the 30-man provisional list were injured. Second-choice goalkeeper Austin Ejide was mentioned but has since denied nursing any injury. Keshi said he had spoken at length with the players and had checked on them to ascertain that none of them was injured. Ejide’s physical state was one of the matters raised by the Nigeria Football Federation members when they first met with Keshi on the list.
The Eagles coach said his concern in Brazil was to treat every game as very important rather than expend all the energy on Argentina, given the concerns of many Nigerians on the South American team which parade some of the best strikers in world, including Lionel Messi.
He said, “My focus is not on Argentina, we have to play Iran and Bosnia first before looking at Argentina.”