Tuesday Jun 03, 2014. 14:12
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has told he is going to the World Cup with 23 fighters who are hungry for glory in Brazil.


The full interview:

AFRICANFOOTBALL.COM: Coach, what were the yardsticks you used to pick your final 23-man squad for the World Cup?

KESHI: It’s all about character, who wants it the most. The shape, the conditioning of every player (was considered). We are going to a month-long tournament and so we need the highest commitment in the team. If we sent you out for two minutes, you give us two minutes of everything.

Character plays more and of course the ability to play. It if were possible, I would have taken all 30 players because they are all fighting and the atmosphere in the camp is good.

The bulk of your squad will be playing at their very first World Cup. Will your team not suffer from inexperience?

We have that in many other teams who have qualified for the World Cup. If we don’t give room to others to grow, how will they grow? We have to guide them and be there at all times for them.

Who were the players who were dropped because of injury concerns?

Yes, a little bit. Nsofor with knee problem, but he was pushing. Joel (Obi) a little bit of ankle injury. But I did not want to take the risks.

If he were 100% fit, of course he would have been in my team. He is still trying to get to be 100% fit. It was good I had time to spend time with him for us to know each other well.

Did Sunday Mba’s late arrival in training cause him to be dropped?

That was one, the other one was that he has not being a professional. We have less than two and a half weeks to the World Cup, but he’s not showing me he wants to be at the World Cup. He’s too relaxed, there was no bite, no hunger, that he wants to be at the World Cup. We have more players who are hungrier and who want to give everything.

This will also your debut at the World Cup as coach and you have kept faith with some rookies like Babatunde Michael, Uchebo, Nwofor, Kunle Odunlami.

They are good players, they are fighters, they want to prove something, they are hungry. I like to have players who are hungry, who want to prove themselves.

Kunle is a good player, he is a utility player, who can play anywhere in the defence, he is very, very committed, his work ethics very high. I like players like that.

You have insisted on the big man Azubuike Egwuekwe. Why?

He’s working hard, just like any other player. He plays in the central defence and he has done well there. He does exactly what we want him to do, so he’s good to go.

How difficult was it to announce your final selection to the team?

Well these things happen, this is part of life. I can use myself as an example, I coached two nations to qualify for the World Cup, but I was never there. That did not stop me from coaching, I had to put in more effort. Same goes to them. They still have time to make it to the next World Cup.

They should work hard and continue to believe and they will be there.

Now, how far can your team go at the World Cup?

We want to go match by match. What I know is that we will give our 120 percent, the rest will be God.

You take on fellow World Cup finalists Greece later on Wednesday. Should your team be judged on this game?

If you wish to judge the team from this game, so be it. It will be your own opinion. We will do what we are capable of.

What will be your final word for Nigerians?

They should pray for the team, good health for the players and that’s it.

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