12 August 2017 10:38
Nigeria coach Salisu Yusuf has alluded to the fact that African football is on the rise with little margin between the traditional big teams and so called ‘minnows’ and therefore expects stiff resistance from neighbours, Benin.
The Super Eagles will travel this weekend to Cotonou for the first leg of the final round of the Total Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) Kenya 2018, and Yusuf opines the match would be no easy game despite the pedigree of the two West African neighbours.
“There is nothing like a walkover. We are talking of a contest in a football match,” Yusuf who won the Nigeria Premier League with Kano Pillars in 2008 told CAFOnline.com
“Past history of any country is no longer relevant in a football match. We have seen smaller countries with better organisation winning matches as such we are going to approach the match against Benin with seriousness.”
The squad has been under intense drilling in the northern Nigeria City of Kano which will host the revere fixture next weekend and Yusuf understandably stated that his wards are ready.
“Our focus now is to prepare well for the upcoming encounter. Our boys have been very active playing with their respective clubs in the domestic league and coupled with the camping in Kano, we are good to go against Benin. We must come out with a very good result in Cotonou.
“The fitness of the team is good because they have been playing matches for their clubs in the league and I would say conditionally, they are ready for this weekend’s match. Tactically, we are still working on how we want them to play in Cotonou.”
Though the home-based Super Eagles is strictly under the watch of Yusuf, the 52-year-old former Nigeria international says the rank and file of the team is bolstered with useful tips from the Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr as well as the new goalkeeper trainer, Enrico Pionetti.
Despite has yet to make a major impact in the history of the tournament designed exclusively for footballers playing in their domestic league. Their best was a third place in the 2014 edition in South Africa, before being bundled out at the first round two years later in Rwanda.
Yusuf has stated that his personal ambition is to ensure qualification for the next edition in Kenya before setting other targets.
“The motivation for me as the head of the home based team is to see how we can better our performance at the CHAN level because we have been featuring without much success; but we have to qualify first for the next edition before we can think of going all the way to win the tournament,” Yusuf concluded.
Nigeria hosts the second leg on Saturday, 19 August 2017 in Kano with the overall winner securing the ticket to Kenya.
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