By Johnny Edward: Nigeria’s home-based Super Eagles head coach. Salisu Yusuf. has praised the character of his players after securing quarter-final berth at the 2018 Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) after coming from a goal down to beat Equatorial Guinea 3-1 in Group C on Tuesday in Agadir.
Goals from Anthony Okpotu, Dayo Ojo and a penalty goal from substitute Rabiu Ali cancelled out an early opener from Equatorial Ginuea’s Nsi Eyama to see Nigeria finish as Group C winners on seven points. In the group’s other game, Libya edged Rwanda 1-0 to finish second on six points.
It’s the second time in three appearances at the competition that the Nigeria’s home-based Super Eagles has made it to the knockout stages of the competition after 2014.
“We wanted to finish first and we are happy we did,” Yusuf began during his post match interview in Agadir.
“The team showed great character. We found ourselves in almost the same scenario during the last edition of the tournament in Rwanda where we had four points going into the final game and we lost and we were out.
“I had to make reference to that game to spur my team on. Anything could have happened. My team gave them so much room to operate during the game. It’s a lesson for us and we remain focused on the next game.
“We were unlucky to have conceded, but I was glad at the way we responded. Our answer was positive, almost always positive. For sure, the second half was good, but we still need to polish our passes more to be accurate. These players show me every day great commitment, great will, desire to fight.”
Yusuf also expressed his delight at Anthony Okpotu getting off the mark in the tournament after firing blanks in the team’s opening two games.
“I’m very happy for Okpotu because he put in lots of efforts in the three games we have played so far. Though he missed some very vital chances during those games, but we need to encourage him more. With the goal the pressure is off him now and I believe he can continue to score.”
Nigeria will now meet the runners-up in Group D in the quarter-finals on Sunday, 28 January.
The Super Eagles assistant coach also showered praises on Sunshine Stars midfielder, Dayo Ojo for the dominant display in the encounter.
Ojo scored a thunderous strike from 25 yards, in the 69th minute of the game, in his first start for Nigeria to take a 2-1 lead after the Guineans had stunned the Eagles in the first half.
The former Al-Merrikh SC star was also adjudged the official Man of the Match.
“Dayo did very well when he came on for Ifeanyi Ifeanyi in that role in the game against Libya, and did very well again,” Yusuf hailed.
“He is a good passer and shooter of the ball.”
“Apart from scoring the goal, he (Ojo) did very well for the team and I am pleased.
“Only 11 players can start, but when you do get the chance you just play at the same level of your teammates.”
On his team’s quarter-final opponent, Yusuf said: “At this level, we don’t have a choice on the team we face. Any team we get to face deserves our respect and we will give our all to go through on Sunday.”