Goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa says Super Eagles will benefit hugely from the two international friendly games against Congo and Cameroon slated to hold in Belgium. In this interview with Completesportsnigeria’s SAB OSUJI, the Sunshine Stars of Akure shot-stopper insists the home-based stars will excel at the Championship of African Nations as well as lay good claim to main Super Eagles team jerseys…
Congratulations on your invitation to Super Eagles camp ahead of next week’s international friendly games with Congo and Cameroon in Belgium…
Thank you, I’m happy that I was selected amongst the team that will play those games and all I need now is to work hard to ensure I make the final list.
How do you look forward to the two games considering they will play a big role in shaping up the Super Eagles team that will tackle Pharaohs of Egypt in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier?
Personally, I’m looking forward to it with determination. Everything in life has to do with self-belief and confidence. When you are confident in yourself, when you are determined and ready to work hard, then success will come.
No doubt Congo will be a true test for you guys going into the AFCON qualifiers…
Well, I’ve not watched Congo play. I’ve not also played against them but I know that no match is ever easy and I don’t expect Congo to be an easy ride.
What about Cameroon?. They won’t come to Belgium for sight-seeing…
Sure, first you know the rivalry between Nigeria and Cameroon. Be it at club or national team level, it has always been war and that will also play out in this one in Belgium because they too are building up for their own AFCON qualifiers too.
Still on the AFCON qualifiers; Egypt are top on the Super Eagles group and Nigeria have this tough game with them coming up. Are you guys confident you can upstage them?
First I’ve not watched them play. Secondly I’ve not played against them. But history tells us that Egypt are a strong football nation whether at club or national team level. They have won the Nations Cup more than any country in Africa. Their clubs have won the CAF Champions League more than any team in the continent, these can confirm their strength. But let me tell you one thing; the present Super Eagles comprise players with determination, hard work and with a new coach and new philosophy, yes, we can upstage them, this I’m sure of. Every player wants to achieve and when such opportunity comes he takes it. We can beat Egypt and qualify ahead of them.
You sound so confident, why?
Of course, we have good players in the team, they work hard week in, week out and everyone wants to be at the Nations Cup and would not want any team, including Egypt, to be a stumbling block.
But, before the Nations Cup qualifying match with Egypt, there will be a CHAN qualifier against Burkina Faso who were runners-up in the All Africa Games in Congo. What chances do you think you guys who are home-based players stand in the game with the Stallions of Burkina Faso?
I have not played against them before, neither have I watched them too. But I know they finished second in the football event of the All Africa Games. But as home-based players, we always look for such opportunity to express ourselves to prove we can do it. So I believe that with the quality of players we have in the Nigerian Professional Football League, we can do our best to get the job done and done very well too.
Don’t forget Nigeria have never won that Cup before. Does that not constitute a form of pressure on you guys going into that game?
We have not won the cup before, I agree. But won the bronze medal in our first time of featuring in the tournament, that was last year. You were there in South Africa last year when Nigeria made her first appearance in the tournament proper and you saw what happened. So we as a team are not new to it and are not in any form of pressure at all. Our objective is to prove to Nigerians that those of us still playing in the domestic league are good and can stand our ground any time.
What positives will you take from the two friendly games against Congo and Cameroon going into the two major competitive games against Egypt in the AFCON qualifiers and the clash with Burkina Faso in the CHAN qualifiers?
I think the two games with Congo and Cameroon are very crucial to us. First they will help build our confidence before the games with Egypt and Burkina Faso. Again, we believe that if we work hard enough, we can lay good claim for shirts in the AFCON qualifying squad team that will play Egypt. It will also help us prepare well for the game with Burkina Faso and I’m grateful to the Nigeria Football Federation for arranging those games for the team.
Sunshine Stars are doing so well in the league this season, tell me, what’s that special thing that is pushing them on?
The only special thing or secret I can say is that every player in Sunshine Stars is determined to work hard and succeed. We want to be the first set of players to win a league trophy for the team and Ondo State. We want to ensure that at the end of the 38-match season, we could be counted among the winners and have something to show to our children later that we achieved in the game.
With seven matches to end the season, do you think that title ambition is still achievable?
Yeah, we strongly believe so. We just want to ensure we win every single game now onwards, starting with Warri Wolves this weekend. We believe that even though Enyimba are five points clear, they can still drop points before coming to play us here in Akure. For us, we have four home games and three away matches in the remaining seven games, so anything can still happen.
You won the FA Cup with Ocean Boys in 2006 and the league also with Ocean Boys in 2008. But that has not reflected in your national team career…
You see, I believe it has been a long time I won a trophy because between 2008 and 2015, its about seven years I’ve not touched any silverware. So I hope to get my hands on a trophy this year, it is still a possibility. Every player wants to win, win and win. I hope to do that as well. As for my past national team career, I don’t want to talk about that, even for now.
But with this opportunity of being part of the senior national team once again in the kitty, what’s your target?
To grab it, make the best of it and lay a strong claim to the national team gloves.