The Nigerians deserve to be over the moon after ending a 19-year long wait for their team to be crowned the kings of African football, and who wouldn’t?
On the back of their success at the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 in South Africa, the Super Eagles now have the chance to go on and dominate the competition for many years to come but only if they can keep hold of coach Stephen Keshi.
A captain of the last team to win the competition in 1994, although he didn’t play in the final against Zambia because of an injury, Keshi becomes only the second man to win the competition both as a player and coach.
The first man to lift the trophy as a player and coach was Egypt’s Mahmoud El Gohary, who helped his country defeat Sudan 2-1 in the 1959 final as a player and then guided the Pharaohs to a 2-0 victory over South Africa 39 years later.
Coming into the 2013 finals, Ivory Coast and Ghana were the favourites to win the competition, while neither Nigeria nor beaten finalists Burkina Faso were on the list of potential winners.
The Elephants were not convincing and deserved to lose to the Super Eagles in the quarterfinals, while the Black Stars, too, were deservedly beaten by Burkina Faso in the last four.
Whereas the core of the Ivorian team played their last finals, and you can’t foresee where they will get another team good enough to be considered favourite at three consecutive finals, Nigeria have a young team with potential to achieve more success in the years to come.
Keshi, who applied but was beaten to the Amavubi coaching job by Micho, was enemy number one back in his country when he overlooked the more established stars like Odemwinge, Yakubu, and Martins in favour of home-based players for the tournament, but he is now a national hero.
He picked six players from the Nigeria Premier League, including goalkeeper Chigozie Agbim, defenders Godfrey Oboabona, Azubuike Egwuekwe, midfielder Gabriel Reuben and strikers Sunday Mba and Ejike Uzoenyi.
The players didn’t let him down and vindicated his unpopular decision. However, after this success, Keshi, who will be on demand on the continent, needs to stay on and finish the job he has started with his country—he won’t get a better team to work with.