Julius Aghahowa, a former Super Eagles striker, says the team possesses the necessary talent and capacity to succeed at the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament.
Aghahowa said this in an interview with our reporter on Tuesday while reacting to the below par performances of the Super Eagles and preparations toward the 2024 AFCON.
It was reported that Nigeria Super Eagles will play the Biennial AFCON starting from Jan. 13 to Feb. 11 and are in Group A that has the host, Cote D’Ivoire, and Guinea-Bissau, as well as Equatorial Guinea.
Nigeria is to play the first match against Equatorial Guinea on Jan. 14, play host Cote D’Ivoire Jan. 18, and square up against Guinea-Bissau in the last match of the group on Jan. 22, 2024.
Aghahowa, who scored 14 international goals for Nigeria, emphasised the importance of absolute commitment among players representing the Nigerian national team.
While commending the talent within the Super Eagles squad, Aghahowa said that wearing the national jersey requires more than just skill.
He also said that the players should demonstrate unwavering commitment and passion when playing for the country.
He, however, raised concerns about the players’ level of commitment, particularly when facing challenges unique to playing in Africa, unlike in Europe where the style of play is more familiar.
According to him, competing in Africa presents different difficulties, such as facing home-based players who bring a strong sense of national pride to the game.
The former striker noted that when other African countries face Nigeria, they often put up strong fights to gain recognition on the global stage.
“I am optimistic about Super Eagles’ chances at the AFCON, the players are talented, and they have the capacity to deliver.
“The main issue I am having is the willpower; that’s enthusiasm and passion to deliver 120 per cent. That is the concern, their commitment,” he said.
Aghahowa, therefore, said that the Super Eagles must approach these matches with the same level of determination and fight back to maintain their status.
He stressed on the need for the Nigerian players to understand the tough nature of these games and prepare accordingly, as their opponents would not make it easy.
Aghahowa, a member of 2,000 Summer Olympics, expressed his belief in the abilities of the Super Eagles, highlighting their potential to succeed.
He, however, reiterated that the players must combine their talent with a strong commitment to winning, particularly in matches where the outcome might not go as planned.
He encouraged the players to give their all in every game, knowing that they had done everything possible to achieve success.
“The players are in Europe which is easier, because everybody is playing same style, but coming to Africa to play and vie for major tournament like World Cup qualifiers or AFCON, we are not going to have it easy.
“The other African countries will come win their home-based players, and when a country has a full home-based team, what do we expect?
“Our players need to have it at the back of their minds that it will be difficult to match and be well prepared. Once every they sort that out, the rest will bean history.
“The players can do it, and I believe in them, but that commitment and resilience the game is a must win should be added to their mentality,” he said.
Aghahowa also admitted that it might not be realistic to win all matches, yet adequate preparations and commitment must be shown in case the results didn’t go as planned.
“Our players should be able to beat their chest that they did all they could in case the match did not go as planned.
“The fans themselves will see the outcome that they tried but didn’t get the result. But in another scenario, when they play without sweat and lose the game, that is not what we want.
“Playing with commitment is for their good as well and for the country. If we miss the World Cup, many things are at stake for the economy, media, tourism and other companies won’t bring their money.
“Losing the World Cup ticket is not a win win situation, because I can see that other smaller countries are beginning to have gut to come to Nigeria and hope to win us here, we don’t want that,” he said.