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INTERVIEW: Shorunmu On 2000 AFCON Memories, Nigeria Vs Cameroon, Akpeyi, Enyeama, Ikeme

INTERVIEW: Shorunmu On 2000 AFCON Memories, Nigeria Vs Cameroon, Akpeyi, Enyeama, Ikeme

Former Super Eagles first choice goalkeeper Ike Shorunmu rates Nigeria’s chances in the World Cup qualifiers against Cameroon while recalling his playing days against the Indomitable Lions in this interview with Completesportsnigeria.com’s DAVID MESHIOYE…

The home-based Super Eagles team have a mountain to climb on Saturday, needing at least two goals to beat Benin Republic to the 2018 CHAN Ticket.. How good are Nigeria’s chances?
The most important thing is for Nigeria to qualify for Kenya. That can only be achieved if our players can put their act together and approach the game with all seriousness. Give it to Benin Republic; they should be commended for winning the first leg, but it has to be said that Nigeria look good to carry the day insha Allah.

Nigeria look so vulnerable going by the way the team played in Cotonou. Cynics believe the players may have suffered from home win and away loss syndrome as witnessed in the league over the years…

Not really, but I believe the team gave their best and their best was not just enough. I am of the opinion that the team is good enough to win on Saturday as long the players take their chances against their opponents. With all due respect to Benin Republic, Nigeria stand a better chance to carry the day. We have the crowd to our advantage; give it to Kano fans to come out enmasse to support the team. Super Eagles will not be lacking the right support but it is up to them to take their chances.

The Indomitable Lions are next up for the Super Eagles. Given Super Eagles’ past record against their perennial rivals, do you think Nigeria can beat Cameroon in Uyo?

That is a tough one. I must be honest with you here, Cameroon won’t be easy meat by all standards. Like you rightly pointed out the Lions are the reigning African champions and that alone should earn them some respect. But as a Nigerian, I want us to win that game to brighten our World Cup chances.

Wining in Uyo is far more important to me than picking three points in Yaounde. Honestly, our players must put their heads down and take this match seriously. The loss to South Africa shocked everyone, but we just have to watch our backs and make sure Camerooon are beaten here in Nigeria. Let us cross that bridge first, then we can begin to fancy our chances in Yaounde. I played against Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2000 in Lagos where we lost on penalties. The memory still lingers but this must not happen again. I am happy we will be having the bulk of our stars around this time. I mean we stand a good chance of beating Cameroon here once Victor Moses, Mikel Obi are fit. They are our most experienced players and Cameroon will have some fears in them with this duo on the pitch.

The Eagles are facing a goalkeeper dilemma at the moment after Carl Ikeme was diagnosed with leukaemia and some calling clamouring for recuperating Vincent Enyeama’s return. Where do you stand in all of this?

In all honesty, I also called for Vincent’s return following Ikeme’s recent setback. We need our best players against Cameroon so you can understand why Nigerians are calling for his return. But the truth must be told; if Enyeama said he is done with the national team then there is no point trying to force his return.

It happened to me in the build-up to the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia. Coach Christian Chukwu had called for my return after I retired from the national team, but I stood my ground that I was not coming back to the Eagles. Enyeama stepped up and Nigeria did well at the tournament. If Enyeama says he is not coming there is no point begging him to return.

Daniel Akpeyi became the scapegoat following Nigeria’s 2-0 home defeat to South Africa and the Chippa United goalkeeper might not be invited for Nigeria’s subsequent games. Would you have dropped him if you were the goalkeeper trainer?

Well it is a tough call but Akpeyi should not be blamed for the loss against South Africa. We need to understand that a goalkeeper is as good as his defenders. Once your back four fail to cover up for you, know that you are as good as dead meat. Our defenders failed us on that day. Akpeyi is not a bad goalkeeper. Fine, he may not be in the mould of Enyeama but he is not as bad as people think.

Ikeme’s setback is Nigeria’s biggest setback. How will Eagles fare against Cameroon without him?

Oh that was very painful to say the least. At a time we were already celebrating we have another keeper in the absence of Vincent, then this cancer issue. I want to encourage him to be strong and the lord will heal him.

NFF just made some coaching vacancies pubic, should we look forward to seeing you return to full-time coaching or what is next in your career?

I think the decision is mine to take. My mind is not made up yet.

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