When Nigeria kicks off their Africa Cup of Nations campaign on January 11 in Garoua, Cameroon, Union Berlin forward Taiwo Awoniyi boasted that the Super Eagles are unfazed by Mohamed Salah’s personality.
Under the supervision of coach Austin Eguavoen, the former U-17 scoring machine was one of 14 national team players who trained yesterday evening at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja.
He stoked the traditional rivalry between Nigeria and Egypt, claiming that the Pharaohs’ wide man was nothing special.
“I believe we have (Wilfred) Ndidi, (Kelechi) Iheanacho, and Ahmed Musa, man for man.” We also have players of the same caliber. I believe the national team is one of which we should be proud.
“With all due respect to Mo Salah, I believe we are all talented individuals who should be prepared for the Africa Cup of Nations challenge,” Awoniyi said.
“What we can do for ourselves is to take each game as it comes and be ready to fight for the country,” he said, insisting that the Eagles will not settle for anything less than winning the continent’s flagship tournament because national pride is at stake in Cameroon.
The 24-year-old striker described his unexpected selection for Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations team as an honor and privilege. He expressed his pride and joy at being a member of the team.
Olisa Ndah of the Orlando Pirates, who trained last night, said he was not under any pressure in the national team.
The former Akwa United central defender described his selection as a “dream come true” and a “reward for hard work.” His father, Ndubuisi, was a member of Nigeria’s U-23 team in 1996.
“It’s an honor to be here. It is everyone’s ambition to play for their country’s national team. My father was a member of the national team, and I’m here to do the same. I’m really pleased with myself. I’m not under any duress in coming here. “I’m here because I’ve been putting in a lot of effort for my team,” Ndah explained.
Meanwhile, interim coach Eguavoen revealed that he had watched some video matches involving Nigeria’s Group D opponents, Sudan, Egypt, and Guinea Bissau, after last night’s workout.
He explained that, despite the fact that the technical crew had dissected some of Egypt’s clips, they were still looking for more because the Pharoahs do not approach all matches in the same way.
As some of the players left their Europe bases last night, Eguavoen expressed optimism that the camp would be full by the end of today.
The former international player said he is more at ease in the role now than he was two weeks ago, when he was jittery after being appointed in an interim capacity after Gernot Rohr’s appointment was terminated.
“It’s an exciting job, but it’s also challenging because it’s not something I expected.” So I had to swallow it, digest it, and relax, knowing that it would come. Whatever happens, we have made the decision to do so. I’m more at ease than I was two or three weeks ago. “I believe we must strategize now and deploy in the manner in which we want to play,” Eguavoen said.
He also admitted that the demands of Nigerians will put extra pressure on the team in Cameroon because the public expects the team to win the Nations Cup every year.