Chief Coach of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, Stephen Keshi has said that his team will not underrate the Stallions of Burkina Faso, when both teams clash Sunday in the final of the 29th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations holding in South Africa.
Nigeria defeated Mali 4-1 Wednesday to set up Sunday’s clash against Burkina Faso, who also defeated Ghana 3-2 on penalties to book their place in the final.
The tie would be second time both teams would be meeting after their first meeting in the group stage ended 1-1 but Keshi says the Nigerian team would be going into the clash as underdogs.
Keshi, who captained Nigeria to a Nations Cup triumph, in 1994 said Sunday’s rematch would be a different ballgame because the Eagles are now unstoppable as only the coveted trophy is good enough for the hard work that they had put in so far.
Keshi said: “We have scaled some hurdles so I believe the clash against Burkina Faso would be a tough one, but we are not going to underrate them, having played a 1-1 draw with them in the group stage”.
Football fans in Abuja on Wednesday declared that Keshi,is truly the “Big Boss’’ of Nigerian football.
The fans also gave various nicknames to the Eagles.
While some called Vincent Enyeama, the Eagles’ goalkeeper, “magnate,’’ others described Ahmed Musa as “Okada’’.
They said the tournament was becoming more interesting following the Eagles’ steady progress in the continental championship.
Henry David, a football enthusiast, who watched the game at Quality Link Park and Gardens at Wuse Zone 7, Abuja, said Keshi had earned a place in the hearts of many Nigerians.
David said the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, should forget the talk about a foreign coach, as Keshi had emerged as the messiah of Nigerian football.
Meanwhile, Burkina Faso have lodged an official appeal against key player Jonathan Pitroipa’s red card in the semi-final win over Ghana, the team manager told AFP today.
As it stands, Pitroipa will miss Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations final against Nigeria in Soweto after picking up two yellow cards in the stunning penalty shoot-out success over the Black Stars.
Team manager Gualbert Kabore, speaking at the team hotel, disclosed: “The Burkina faso Football Federation wrote an offical letter of appeal to CAF. “We lodged it in two hours after the match as stipulated by the regulations. We think we have a good chance of winning the appeal.”
He urged the NFA not to relent in motivating the team, as any attempt to shortchange them of their match bonuses could ruin the nation’s chances of winning the AFCON 2013 trophy.
Mark Deke, another fan, said Keshi was a wonderful coach that needed to be encouraged.
Deke said the Nigerians he knew would castigate a coach if he fails to perform, but it has been a different situation since Keshi took over.
He said the call from President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday was a great motivation for the players.
Another fan, Daniel Obalabo, said Keshi was just lucky at the ongoing Nations Cup, stresssing that he was not a good coach but had only tried to blend the home-based and foreign players together.
Obalabo blamed the failure of past national team coaches on the NFA, saying that the association always frustrated coaches that would not dance to it tune.
“I feel Keshi is just lucky. He is not a good tactician; we have had some good coaches in the past that could not qualify the team because the NFA frustrated them when they refused to play along,’’ he said.
Salihu Mohammed, a football enthusiast said Nigeria now had a team that could go places.
“I know we will lift the trophy. I believed in this team when tey were leaving for South Africa because the problem the previous team used to have was political and not professional,’’ he said.
According to Emmanuel Okoye, a businessman, “the scoreline of the match was unbelievable; it’s like a dream to me.
“I thought it was going to be a very difficult game. It actually started that way, but the boys proved themselves at last.
“It was indeed a massacre; it was highly entertaining and we are very delighted,’’ Okoye said.
Francis Ayatse, a journalist, said expectations had been very high and nobody gave Nigeria a chance.
“I think the whole world now knows why we call our Eagles’ Super; we were not disappointed at all and we are very proud to be Nigerians,’’ he added.
Offa Babatunde, a student, in his reaction, said: “I am happy Nigeria won this match. It has now been proved that Mali is not a team that can play Nigeria.’’
“In fact, I initially predicted four zero. I am disappointed we couldn’t keep a clean sheet,’’ Babatunde noted.
Another football fan, Abdulrazaq Sanni, said: “ I never expected it was going to be like this.
“But we really thank God that at last we have scaled through to the final. I never believed the Super Eagles could fly as high when they were leaving Nigeria for the Nations Cup.
“ It is just happening like a miracle now. My advice to them is to hold their heads up and do what people like us didn’t believe they could do, which is lifting the trophy,’’ Sanni said.
A few minutes after the end of the match, the minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala posted a tweet congratulating the Super Eagles.