Vanguard (Lagos)

25 February 2013

Nigeria: Nations Cup Party Over - Okpala

Super Eagles assistant coach, Sylvanus Okpala has said the team's triumph in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations concluded in South Africa penultimate weekend is now history even as Nigerians continue to celebrate the feat.

The former Nigerian international said the technical crew and the players have put that behind them and were now focused on winning a ticket to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Although he admitted that it was a very good experience which he has had as a player, and now as a coach, it was pertinent to start thinking seriously on the task ahead.

He pointed out that despite the rapturous celebrations that followed the Eagles success story in South Africa, "many Nigerians doubted their ability.

"We had faith in what we were doing. It was not easy anyway as many people never believed in what we were doing. Things were not as bad as people made it to look.

But whether we played a good game or below standard, compared with other games in the tournament, we were never dominated by our opponents," Okpala defended their performance in Afcon, and insisted that poor officiating and, perhaps, a dint of luck complicated Super Eagles' start to the tournament.

"Everybody saw what happened in the first game; we lost a man and ended up conceding a late equaliser. Against Zambia, we all saw the late penalty against us and the resultant equaliser. If that is how penalties are awarded then the Super Eagles would have had up to twenty before Zambia would have got their own.

"Against Ethiopia, we knew the match was going to be our toughest in the group. Many people do not know that Ethiopia played their best match against Eagles because they wanted to prove a point. But we raised our game.

"We started knowing the boys better after the first two matches. We began to adjust the team as the matches came.

Against Ivory Coast we, the coaches were sure we could stop them because we had seen them play, and we watched their tapes several times. And you could see that they hardly found the ball to play. The tactical approach from coach Stephen Keshi was fantastic."

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