ECHIEJILE: STOPPING ZAMBIA WILL BE TOUGH
Posted: Jan 16, 2013
Super Eagles left-back Elderson Echiejile admits to JOHNNY EDWARD in this interview that Africa Cup of Nations champions will be one of Nigeria’s biggest hurdles in South Africa. The Braga star however insists that the Eagles will soar in South Africa and surprise many people.
Having won a bronze medal in your debut at the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola, what are your expectations ahead of the tournament in South Africa?
I hope to help the team get to the final of the competition and possibly win the title for a third time for the country. We have the determination to achieve that and I pray we get into our strides when the Nations Cup kick-off on Saturday.
You will clock 25 on the eve of the team’s opening game against Burkina Faso, does that give you extra motivation to go all out for a win?
Of course… nobody loves to lose, whether it will be on the eve of my birthday or not. We have a mandate to perform having failed to qualify for the last edition of the championship. This team will surpass many expectations in South Africa because we have some young lads who are eager to make names for themselves.
Nigerians are not comfortable with the performances of the team in the recent friendly games so far, are they right to feel that way?
The fans lost faith in the team after we failed to qualify for the last edition in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea but I will urge them not to judge us with the results of the friendly games we have played so far. We know what is at stake and we won’t disappoint Nigerians in South Africa. I won a bronze on my debut in Angola and I strongly believe that we can get to the finals in South Africa this time around.
The defence line in which you play in will be parading two new players at right-back and a new centre-back to partner skipper Joseph Yobo. Are you comfortable with the new lads?
Yes… they have some points to prove also. Any player who the coach picked in his final 23-man squad for the Nations Cup has the potential to excel in South Africa.
But on a sincere note, will you miss the experience of defender Danny Shittu who pulled out of the squad?
Definitely, but I believe in the replacement drafted in by the coach.
Coach Keshi recently stated that he would have loved to have Shola Ameobi in his AFCON squad and I’m sure you met with him when you played Venezuela, could you share with us the kind of character he is?
Shola Ameobi is a cool guy. He made sure he spoke with every player invited for that game when we were in camp prior to the Venezuela game. I share the coach’s view on the fact that Ameobi has a charming nature and his presence in our attack line will be sorely missed. But that does not mean that we don’t have players who can fill the void. Our strikers will score goals aplenty in South Africa. Nigerians should just be patient with us because we will deliver.
Who has been your greatest influence in the Eagles since you broke into the team?
I will say Nwankwo Kanu when I first came in and now Joseph Yobo. Yobo has been a good leader who by God’s grace will lift the AFCON title this year because he deserves to bow out on a high.
Do you think Nigeria is capable of finishing top of Group C?
Zambia is the best team in Africa judging from their triumph from the last edition of the Nations Cup, so it’s going to be difficult but not impossible to displace them. We have to show some ambition to win in South Africa. If we can win every game anything can happen. We’re going to try our best to qualify as group leaders and avoid the big guns in the quarter-finals because those games are always dangerous to be involved in. But we will show no fear if we are pooled against any of them. I believe if we give everything in all the games we are going to play, we will have a very great Nations Cup. It's going to be tough even if many Nigerians believe it's an easy group. Zambia are the only team who will give us some tough times but Ethiopia and Burkina Faso are nowhere close to us. I see us progressing to next stage from the group as leaders. I am not underrating those teams but we are not in the same class. We will play each game as if our lives depend on it.
Once again congratulations on making the final squad list…
I can’t wait for the competition to kick off and I believe that with a real dedication and commitment to the cause, we will win it.
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