Leadership (Abuja)

5 January 2013

Nigeria/Zambia: Afcon - How Keshi Shocked Zambia, B/Faso Spies in Catalonia

Photo: Vanguard
Eagle’s coach, Keshi

Super Eagles' group opponents in the forthcoming 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, Burkina Faso and Zambia are keeping close taps on the team's build up to the tournament. Zambia, the defending champion and Burkina Faso both sent spies to monitor Stephen Keshi's selected squad in the 1-1 draw against a Catalonia selected side in Barcelona on Wednesday.

But the infiltrators were pleasantly surprised at the quality on display in the Nigerian team against the star studded Catalonian side including ten regular Barcelona and seven Espanyol players.

Some of the coaches and journalists from the opponent's camps who came to spy Coach Stephen Keshi's squad were surprised by the new faces in the Nigerian set up.

They approached Eagles' assistant coach Gydounou Valere about the big names Keshi will be taking to the Nations Cup and they were astonished by the coach's reply. "Some of the coaches and journalists who came to spy the team had to approach me, saying where are the big names that we are taking to the Nations Cup and I told them that they are seeing them right there on the pitch", he said.

Valere, who has worked with Keshi since his stint in Togo and Mali said the Super Eagles are on track to cause many surprises at the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa and called for the total backing of all and sundry. Nigeria will next take on Cape Verde Island next week in another warm up game in Portugal.

Meanwhile, former Green Eagles winger, Waidi Akanni has expressed concern over Coach Stephen Keshi's experimentation less than 15 days to the kickoff of the tournament. He said less than two weeks to the tournament Keshi is yet come up with his 23-man squad required for the championship. Nigeria will kick start its Nations Cup campaign on January 21 against West African rival, Burkina Faso in Nelspruit.

According to him, "the fact that Keshi is yet to name our 23-man final list cast serious doubts on the team's readiness for the biannual African soccer showpiece. Compared to other countries coming to the Nations Cup who have selected their 23-man squad it shows that we're not ready for the AFCON challenge," Akanni told supersport.com.

"We're still parading the 32-man list and not all the players have shown up. Some are being awaited and the fact that the coach is waiting to see all the players before naming his final list is a cause for worry.

"First, seeing a player and the player being certified fit for the challenge is another thing and the time for thorough examination appears not to be there. I think others look prepared than us."

He expressed doubts about the capability of the Stephen Keshi-led team to grab a third title in South Africa. "Going by the records we posted in the last few years and the fact that we were absent in the last edition, our chance of winning the third title is very slim. I think the presence of cup holders, Zambia, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, South Africa, among others, make it tougher," he said.

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