Completesportnigeria.com's DAVID MESHIOYE gets former Nigeria prolific left-winger, Emmanuel Amuneke talking as the Super Eagles's busy schedule in the race for 2018 World Cup and 2018 CHAN tickets gets closer.
The Nigeria's 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup winning coach talks seriously about how the Super Eagles must play Benin Republic and Cameroon and earn the desired results. Excerpts….
There are presently a number of hurdles in front of Nigeria as far as continental football is concerned. Firstly, the Home-based Super Eagles will face Benin Republic later in the month in a 2018 CHAN qualifers. Do you see this match as a stroll in the park for CHAN Eagles?
I don’t see that match as a mere game and we can be bundled out by Benin Republic if care is not taken. Look, the syndrome of talking about winning a game before it is played has become a thing of the past because every country is working hard to improve their football where they’re deficient. They are developing their game and their footballers also. We have to accept the fact that to achieve success, you must put in lots of hard work and commitment. The game is no longer about 'hey I know how to play football'. Look, everybody knows how to play football, but if our CHAN Eagles interpret the game well,it will be a huge edge against Benin Republic.
You just talked about interpreting the game; can you please shed more light on that point?
If our players know how to interpret the game on their own, their decision becomes much better. Interpreting the games helps you to avoid silly errors. You will be forced to commit errors that could derail your game plan, but once you know what to do, then your errors become minimal. It’s important every player knows what to do when they're with the ball and know what to do when they’re without the ball.
Nigeria seem to have taken the backstage in CHAN competition, having participated in the last two editions with only a bronze to show for it. Would you say the coaches are not doing enough in terms of keeping themselves abreast with modern trends of the game or the Nigerian league is not producing the right kind of players needed to challenge for honours in Africa?
I think it’s a general problem, and we just have to rise up and find the right way forward. We seem not to realize that names don’t win football matches anymore, and we had to wait until Super Eagles lost to South Africa at home, before we realize that only the team that knows how to use the ball wins the game. We have to improve our league even though I believe we are not lacking in talents. All we need is a football structure that explains in detail how our national team should play right from junior to senior team.
How should home based Eagles approach the game against Benin Republic?
The players have to remain focused and not underrate the Beninese. I think it is another opportunity for them to prove to the coach that they can vie for places in the main Super Eagles if given the opportunity. I am sorry to say this, but I think our national team is just like a jamboree. The national team should be for the best and not just because you play in Europe. People have been clamouring for the inclusion of home based players in the Super Eagles, but they also have to understand that the national team is meant for the best. And the best is not about where you are coming from, but the ability to compete and convince the people in charge that you are good enough to fight for a shirt.
The 2018 World Cup qualifying games against Cameroon are paramount. Do you think Nigeria stand a chance against the African champions?
The Cameroon games are not a matter of life and death. What we must have at the back of our minds is to accept the fact that our opponents know how to play the game. When you look at the Cameroon team closely, you will see that they are a side with lots of pedigree and they also have top players in some of the best leagues in Europe. This should give us the much needed push to prepare adequately for the games and hope for the best.
Like I keep saying; there are talents in Nigeria and we are always full of confidence that we have the player to deliver the results, but football has gone beyond all of that. It’s all about what you put in the game in terms of preparation while the players too must know what is expected of them on the field. What our players do when they are with ball and when the ball is lost will go a long way to determine how Nigeria will fare against Cameroon. Once our players know what to do on these two occasions then the job becomes easier for Rohr. I am happy we have an edge in terms of points and all we need to do is build on that confidence when we face Cameroon. I played against them in Mauritius. We need to play the politics too, NFF leaders must have that at the back of their minds.
What is your general assessment of Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr so far?
You can only judge a coach by his results and so far so good. Rohr is doing a fantastic job with the national team even though I feel the loss to South African was just a wake-up call for him. He needs our support and I wish him all the best as Super Eagles manager.
You must be very relieved Iheanacho joined Leicester City
That is a good one for the young man. It is important he moves to where he can get more matches and Leicester City seem to be an ideal choice for him. He will settle down easily there with the presence of Wilfred Ndidi and Ahmed Musa.
Should Nigeria look forward to seeing you back in the national team in the nearest future, now that the FA has advertised vacant national team positions?
I think it’s time to spend time with my family. My kids are growing up and they really need me around now that I am free, but we will see how it goes.
Thank you for your time