Adepoju - How Eagles will beat Liberia
Eagles have been drawn against Liberia in the final round of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in September, what’s your reaction to this?
It’s a good draw. We should not be afraid of any team because we can’t afford to miss another opportunity to be at the Cup of Nations after failing to take part in the 2012 edition in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. We have to take the match very seriously because Liberia is not a small country, and you would want to agree with me that there are no small teams anymore, no game is easy, every game is difficult now unlike in the past.
What would be your advice to the coaching crew as they look ahead to the match?
My advice for the coach and his assistants is to start preparations now. They should play warm-up games so that they will be in top form before September.
Cote d’Ivoire will be meeting Senegal in the qualifiers, what’s your take on this?
It’s a very tough one. Both countries are top African sides with great players who play for some of the best clubs in Europe. It is sad that they are going to play against each other but that is football, one team has to qualify while the other team has to crash out.
After a series of friendly games, and two World Cup and one Africa Nations Cup qualifiers all in three weeks, what is your assessment of the Super Eagles and the coaching crew so far?
I think they are on the right track, especially judging by the recent results and what they have displayed since Keshi took over the team. It shows that good times are coming back. Keshi and his technical crew members are trying their best and we just need to be patient with them. They are trying to build a new team which in no distant time will be very strong.
Looking at the team critically as an ex-international, which area do you think still needs to be strengthened?
The team is still in a rebuilding process and it will be difficult to come out and state exactly where should be strengthened. I believe Keshi should be in a better position to know where the team is lacking and where they need improvement. I will advise them that they should continue to work and improve on their lapses, and with time, a strong team will be raised.
Do you think the absence of some key players like Mikel Obi, Joseph Yobo , Obinna Nsofor, affected the performances of the team in the three games against Namibia, Malawi and Rwanda?
As far as I am concerned, in a situation like this, when a team is going through a rebuilding process, some players will be left out in some games. There is nothing wrong if Keshi decides to try some new players who from my assessment have done so well. But once these players are invited back to the team, they will be even stronger. However, whether some players are in or out of the team at any particular time, all we want is a strong and competitive team with committed players that will do well in competitive games.
The Eagles next competitive game is in September, in the final round of the qualifiers for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, what are your expectations?
My expectation is for them to do much better they did recently. The last time, we failed to make it to the Africa Cup of Nations and that should not be allowed to repeat. I believe the expectation of everybody is for the team to pick one of the tickets and erase the sad memory of failing to participate at the last edition in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
How best would you want the coaching crew to approach the next game?
For now, every game is crucial. I don’t expect them to approach the game any other way than with determination to qualify. I expect them to approach it with all seriousness it deserves because they cannot afford to miss out in next year’s Nations Cup. No team or game is easy nowadays. Nobody gave the Zambians any chance of winning the last Cup of Nations, but today, they are the champions of Africa. So I will urge the players to be up and doing in everything they do.
How do you think the Nigeria Football Federation should help the team to prepare for the next stage of the qualifiers?
I would want the NFF to organize quality friendly games that will be of immense benefit to the team. This is because playing friendly games will go a long way in putting the players in the right frame of mind. Preparing for a crucial game, you need quality teams to play against so as to assess your level of preparedness.
There are calls from certain quarters that it’s time for the coach Stephen Keshi to come up with a dependable team and stop experimenting, what’s your take on this?
It will be wrong to start debating on such issue for now. What is more important now is How the coaching crew will raise a formidable side. I believe when the time comes, which ever player the coaching crew will need at a particular moment, they will extend invitation to that player. We have so many players in Nigeria that are doing well; even outside Nigeria, there are players who are performing well for their club sides. For now, let’s just allow Keshi and his assistants to concentrate on the job, and let’s just give them the much needed encouragement and support and I believe the team will come out good very soon.
The Eagles have been playing their home games at the U.J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar, do you think the venue has been favourable?
In the past, we used to play all our games at the National Stadium in Lagos. But things have changed.
But I feel the most important thing is that wherever the team plays their home games, the full support must be there- whether they are playing well or not. The Super Eagles team is for every Nigerian and they should be able to play and get maximum support anywhere they chose to play. So, for me, the venue where they play shouldn’t be an issue, what is important is the support they get from those venues.
Let’s look at the ouster of Egypt from next year’s Africa Cup of Nations, after losing 4-3 on aggregate to Central Africa Republic, How would you react to this?
It came to me as a big surprise that Egypt crashed out of next year’s Africa Cup of Nations. This shows that more teams are coming up and no team can dominate forever. They are experiencing their own trying times for now which I believe they will come out of it soon. No strong country or team today that has not gone through this kind of situation but the important thing is what each of them was able to learn from it. We have had our own and we are just coming up now and it will take some time before everything returns to the way it used to be.
What lessons can be learnt by the Super Eagles as they look ahead to the qualifiers in September?
We must learn from our past mistakes. We always wait till the last day before taking anything serious. We should know that we cannot underrate any team again. Our preparation should be from the beginning and every game should be taken very seriously or else, what happened the last time when we failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations would happen again.
Finally, How would you describe the standard of this year’s Federation Cup which is in the round of 16?
So far, it has been interesting; but for us, it’s sad that my team Shooting Stars crashed out. It’s one of those things in football and we just have to move on and work harder to get the necessary points in the rest of the games this season.
And what do you think should be done to bring back the lost glory of the Federations Cup?
For the past few years now, the Federations Cup has not been what it used to be. There are no sponsors for the competition. I pray the glory days return because it is one competition where great players in Nigeria have took part in. And it will be a shame if we just allow the value and glamour of that competition to go down just like that.
Adepoju - How Eagles will beat Liberia
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