–Blames NFF crisis for Nigeria’s slump
Super Eagles caretaker coach Stephen Keshi is unsure of his immediate future in charge of the African champions after his contract came to an end after the World Cup and has not been renewed by a Nigerian Football Federation in a state of turmoil since returning from Brazil.
The Big Boss,as he is fondly called agreed to take charge of Nigeria’s first two matches in the African Nations Cup qualifying campaign, a surprise 2-3 home loss to Congo last Saturday and a goalless draw with South Africa in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Asked about his future, Keshi said: “I’m not sure yet. I was just brought in to help manage these two games.
“We have finished them now, so we’ll see what happens. If we (he and the Nigerian federation) come to an agreement, yes I’ll stay. If no, I’ll depart. Let’s see how it turns out when I get home.”
Nigeria next play Sudan twice in a row in October – home and away – in their bid to qualify for next year’s Nations Cup finals in Morocco. They trail behind Congo (six points) and South Africa (four points) in the Group A standings after picking up only one point from their first two games.
The shock defeat by Congo in Calabar was the first time Nigeria had lost a competitive home game in 33 years.
Any decision on his future is likely to be bogged down over the next few weeks as the federation sets a date for elections after a disruptive two months that have seen two separate bids to unseat its leadership thwarted by the threat of FIFA sanctions.
Keshi blamed the uncertain atmosphere created by squabbling officials among the reasons for the poor start by Nigeria to their bid to defend their Nations Cup title.
Keshi also leapt to the defence of striker Emmanuel Emenike and midfielder,Mikel Obi over their poor performance in Wednesday night’s 0-0 draw with South Africa.
Emenike was dropped to the bench in Saturday’s 3-2 home loss to Congo, but his introduction in place of Uche Nwofor sparked a mini revival for Nigeria, as he added strength and pace to the Eagles forward line twice coming close to scoring.
His performances lead to Keshi playing him from the start against South Africa but despite playing for the entire duration of the game the AFCON 2013 top scorer failed to get a single shot on target and his poor showing in front of goal led to Keshi shifting him to the flanks.
The Fenerbache hitman failed to lift his game from the flanks leading to criticism and Keshi leaped to his defence at the post match conference.
“If a striker doesn’t play good, doesn’t mean he’s not good. You see players in Europe who go 15 games without a goal, doesn’t mean he’s not there. Emenike, I have to believe he is there. When he starts scoring he won’t stop scoring,” the coach said.
“Three months we have not played together. He plays in a different team with a different style, we need to come together and start playing our normal game.”
On Mikel Keshi insists he still believes that the Chelsea man is a very important member of the Super Eagles.
The Chelsea man is seemingly bearing the brunt of Nigeria’s shock 3-2 defeat to Congo on Saturday, which was followed by a goalless draw against Bafana Bafana.
Keshi admits that Mikel’s lack of game-time at Stamford Bridge with the Blues might have contributed to his dip of form, but he insists he won’t drop the player.
“He’s not playing regularly at his team, but that’s something different and it doesn’t mean I cant use him in my team,” said Keshi, adding that Mikel’s UEFA Champions League experience is invaluable to the team.
“That is the coach’s [Jose Mourinho] choice not play him in his team, but in my team if he is in good shape and with the experience he has from all the years playing the Champions League he will play.”