ECHIEJILE: WE’LL REPEAT ‘94 EAGLES FEAT
Posted: Feb 10, 2013
Super Eagles left Back, Elderson Echiejile Boasts
Super Eagles left-back, Elderson Echiejile tells NURUDEEN OBALOLA that the players are driven by the desire to win Nigeria's first Africa Cup of Nations title in 19 years, as they face Burkina Faso in this year's final. The Sporting Braga player also speaks about Stephen Keshi's comment to quit as Super Eagles coach and the threat posed by Burkina Faso
You're playing your first final as a Super Eagles player. What does this mean to you?
As a player it means a lot to me and I'm happy to have played a role in the team's quest for the AFCON title. My debut at the Nations Cup ended with a bronze medal and like I said earlier this team would go a step further by winning the title by the grace of God.
The team started slowly and got heavily criticised. What brought about the positive change that has led to the final?
Self determination and the encouragement we got from our coaches did the magic. We are not just here to make up the numbers and despite the setbacks we had in the first two games conceding late goals, we stepped up our game to show our own class.
Burkina Faso have proved they are a tough team by drawing with Nigeria and Zambia and beating Ghana. They are unbeaten too. Are you confident ahead of the final?
Of course. Nobody gave us a chance of getting to the final and we have exceeded the expectations of many but personally and as a team we are focused on the trophy.
You guys are now the favourites to lift the trophy; does that put you under extra pressure?
Not at all. We just get on the pitch to do our jobs quietly and today's final won't be any different. We have worked too hard to get here and fail today.
You and Efe Ambrose are currently the most experienced defenders in the team with Joseph Yobo not starting. How much influence have you had on your younger colleagues?
It's down to communication. We talk to each other every time. The young guys as well in central defence are also prepared to learn, which makes us play as a unit.
What special thing has Keshi brought into the team to make you guys so good?
Confidence and self-belief is what the Big Boss has brought to this team. Tactically we are very disciplined and we will keep working hard until we get to our very best.
You have been impressive so far on the biggest African stage; will this translate into a move away from Portugal? Anything on the horizon?
Well for now it depends on the kind of offer I get but what's utmost on my mind is to win today and not offers.
What sort of relationship do you players have with Keshi?
Father and son relationship. He treats us with the respect needed to give the best on the pitch.
Keshi has hinted that he could resign after the Nations Cup. How would you feel if he leaves? Would you try to stop him?
Of course I would, because it won't be good for him to leave us like that. He has started a good job and I want to enjoin Nigerians to support the team. We will always give our best.
People are beginning to compare you with the great 1994 Eagles set. Do you see any similarities between this team and that one?
It's too early to start comparing us to the 1994 set. We are still very young but we could get there with time. He (Keshi) played and captained that 1994 set so he knows the kind of standard he wants to set but if given the support and backing we could match their feat.
Is there any Burkinabe player you're worried could give you problems? Any Nigerian player you believe will always deliver?
We played them in the group stage and we all know one another so I don't think there's any player we are worried about. Secondly, all the Nigerian players that will start today’s final are match winners so they should worry more about us.
Not even Pitropa whose red card has been rescinded by CAF?
We will match him in the final. Yes he's a good player but not good enough to stop us from winning the Cup.
Are you guys bothered that every Nigerian expects you to bring the Cup home after 19 years?
It's expected having got this far and we won't disappoint.
Do you feel the six home-based players in the squad have proved Keshi right to have brought them to South Africa?
The coach knows who to select for games and he alone could speak on that.
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