Former Nigeria international Sylvanus Okpala believes in the technical ability of Super Eagles Team B coach Salisu Yusuf to guide the home-based national team to CHAN glory, adding that Nigeria can always rise to such challenges, even when one least expects.
In a chat, Okpala said, “although I don’t know most of the players the coach has taken to Morocco, I believe Nigeria is blessed with abundance of talented footballers who can rise to any challenge. Eagles are a team for the big occasion. I am sure they will excel.”
Apart from his expression of a strong belief in the talent glut in the national team, Okpala said coach Salisu who has been at the helm for sometime now will tinker a strategy that would see him carry out his technical plan for each game.
“A coach needs a system, whether 4-2-4, 4-3-3 or whatever method one wants to adopt, one must have a strategy to achieve it. I trust in Salisu’s experience and technical know-how to confront any opposition. Nigeria football has the capacity to achieve at any level,” he said.
Okpala was however cautious over high expectations from the team Salisu has taken to Morocco, pointing out that emphasis should not be on winning the tournament.
“The most important thing about the CHAN tournament is the discovery of talents. It is supposed to be a talent hunt tournament as those discovered from there could become stars for future national teams,”he reasoned.
He recalled that while at the national team as an assistant to late Stephen Keshi, he was one of those who supported the idea of a standing home-based national team. “And we did well at the time as we took no fewer than four or five to the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, which we won.”
Okpala was reminded that stars discovered in previous CHAN tournaments who remained in the domestic league have not been able to break into Super Eagles A Team. And he cuts in, “It depends on the head coach. You can’t blame Salisu on that but the head of the technical crew, Rohr,” but was quick to add, “Rohr is succeeding. The buck rests on his table so one cannot blame him for whatever decisions he has taken, as long as he is getting good results.”
However, he said that he believes in the statement that ‘the young shall grow’. “I am a typical example of that statement, because as a secondary school boy I played for Rangers and played for the national team also. The most important thing is that as a player, I always had the intention to play to win. But as a coach I always aspire to be the best. That is the philosophy I want the Nigerian team to adopt either at CHAN or the World Cup.”