A 2-2 draw with Liberia last weekend has prompted Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi to challenge his players to show more commitment and professionalism in their Africa Cup of Nations soccer campaign.
“Sometimes I feel the right mental attitude and hunger is lacking in our game and I won’t condone that,” said Keshi. “The body language must change and must correlate with our game plans. We have a very simple approach and we expect everyone to understand and respect that at this level.”
Keshi took over the coaching duties after Nigeria failed to qualify for the last Africa Cup of Nations tournament jointly hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
“I would prefer players to stay away and say they cannot make it rather than for them to come and show Nigerians that we are not serious,” said Keshi. “With this attitude on the pitch from the top professionals who are in this collection, we won’t excel at the Nations Cup.”
Nigeria will host Liberia in the second leg of the qualifier next month with the eventual winner qualifying for next year’s Nations Cup competition.
In other qualifiers last weekend, African champions Zambia registered a 1-0 home win over Uganda, the Cape Verde Islands shocked Cameroon 2-0, Ghana shut out Malawi 2-0, Sierra Leone and Tunisia played to a 2-2 tie in Freetown, Sudan capitalized on two late penalties to beat Ethiopia 5-3, Mali brushed aside Botswana 3-0, Algeria recorded a 1-0 win over Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo scored a convincing 4-0 victory over Equatorial Guinea.
Meanwhile, the Ivory Coast is Africa’s highest ranked team in the latest International Soccer Federation’s (FIFA) rankings. At number 16, it is the only African team in the Top 20.
Algeria has replaced Ghana as the second-highest ranked African team, with Libya and Mali completing the top five, followed by Egypt, Tunisia, Gabon, Zambia and Sierra Leone.
By RON FANFAIR