Assistant Coach of Flying Eagles, Nduka Ugbade has predicted that Nigeria will win 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, saying part of the age grade teams’ coaches plans is to prepare their current players for the challenges. He also tells RICHARD JIDEAKA in this interview that the target of the U-20 team is to win the AYC in Senegal and go to the World Cup as African champions…
Congratulations on your victory at the just concluded Super Six tournament, what is the secret?
Thanks. There is no secret about this feat but we got rewarded for our hard work, focus and style of football. I think this six team tournament has afforded us the opportunity to see what we wanted to see in the boys. We have been able to notice some flaws and errors. We were able to correct some in the course this tournament and the ones we cannot do now, we will try to do before the Africa Youth Championship in Senegal.
Will beating the likes of Nigeria’s league champions Kano Pillars and Federation Cup winners Enyimba in the six team tournament boost your team going into AYC?
The good thing about this tournament is that it afforded the chance to test what we have been practicing for a period of time in camp. We were watching out for possession of the boys on the ball, positional play, unity, how we press when not with the ball and how we defend under pressure. Pillars and Enyimba no doubt are big clubs and for us to beat them will definitely give our boys the confidence they need ahead of the AYC in Senegal.
From what we have seen here, it looks like you have a deliberate plan not to rely too much on the squad that won the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2013, why this decision?
Yes, because most of these boys you are talking about are too young and some of them have gone abroad, so getting them anytime we need them may not be that easy. Again we are introducing new talents because the AYC is not in FIFA calendar and the clubs abroad are not compelled to release their players for the tournament. In view of this, we have to build a strong team at home that will be able to compete with the best. We are also aware that getting these players from extreme cold weather to extreme hot may affect the team.
So you are not going to have the majority of Golden Eaglets players that won the U-17 World Cup in 2013 for the AYC tournament?
Definitely, we will not have all of them available for the AYC for obvious reasons. Like I said earlier, their clubs, forms and commitment will determine their fate in the team.
How would you explain why some of the players who honoured your invitation were not given much time to prove what they can offer?
It has to do with their fitness level and form. There is no sentiment in our team selection. You have to prove yourself to make the team. We in the technical crew know what we want and what we want to achieve, so no favouritism in the team’s selections. Play the way we want and you are in simple.
Can this team win the AYC in Senegal, given the fact that you may not have the full complement of your Europe based players?
I won’t tell you anything contrary because our focus is to win the AYC and go to the World Cup as African champions. Yes, we would win the AYC. You see, we are doing something which I hope the Super Eagles can benefit from. We just have to play more on information than playing on formation. We are equally working hard to make sure we produce future Eagles for the nation. Football is dynamic and we have to keep pace or we fall away from track.
The belief is that your team has spent more time in camp and that is why they were able to perform better than other teams in the Glo Super Six, how would you react to this?
That is just an excuse. The truth is that we are better than them because we are national team. We approach all the teams we have played with different game plan and I believe if they had beaten us, they won’t be talking about not having enough training before this six team competition. If they are ill prepared, they should also agree that they are more matured than us. I think it was victories for youth over experience.
The players that won the U-17 World Cup in 2013 are now in U-20 team; do you think they can progress into Super Eagles to win the World Cup in 2022?
This question is like you read my thoughts and our hope. If you go to my hotel room, I have a replica of the World Cup and I am optimistic that by 2022, Nigeria will win the FIFA senior World Cup. But this is like saying that a nest is created for something. It is only when the design is finished that one can say yes it is ready for the safety of the eggs that the bird will lay there. For that reason, we are taking control of our destiny by preparing these young guys for a dream. There are three levels for this dream; a level where you compete for fun, the second level is competing for laurels and the third is training for high performance. That level will come after these guys have passed this U-20 stage to U-23 and getting set for the senior national team, Surely, surely, I strongly believe without doubt that Nigeria can just go on to win the 2022 world cup. But then there must be continuity in the administration and coaching in football in the country to achieve that.
So will it be right to say that the Golden Eaglets class of 2013 will form the bedrock of the team that will win the2022 World Cup for Africa and Nigeria?
Yes, if they remain focused and keep on developing their game. But they must not give themselves undue pressure. They need to play lots of games for clubs and country to gain competitive edge, so that under intensity, you are able to think very well to create a balance psychologically and move on.
Why has Nigeria not been able to win the World Cup after doing so well at age grade levels, winning the U-17 thrice, reaching the final in the U-20 World Cup and winning the U-23 Olympic gold?
At the level of finished product, we tend to finish well. We have not won because we have not planned properly and we do not have continuity in both administration and coaching, if we have long time plan and execution, we should have won the world Cup.
Don’t you think it is due to age cheat?
I don’t think it is due to age cheats. I think it is because the talents we have are not nurtured in the acts of science of football. Age cheat has become thing of the past now with the coming of MRI. Age cheating does not come to bear in football like before again.
Thank you for talking to Complete Sports.
It is my pleasure to talk to you.