Interim coach of the Nigerian national football team, Augustine Eguavoen, has admitted that he's under 'some pressure' to deliver at the TotalEnergies AFCON 2021 in Cameroon.
Super Eagles Update: 'I'm under some pressure' - interim coach Eguavoen admits
Super Eagles interim boss is feeling the heat of expectations ahead of the AFCON 2021
Nigeria's Super Eagles are one of 24 teams vying for honours in Cameroon at the 33rd African Cup of Nations, AFCON, billed to kick off this Sunday when host, Cameroon, take on Burkina Faso in the tournament's opener.
The Super Eagles have landed in Garoua, Cameroon, ahead of their opening match against Egypt slated for Tuesday next week and had their first training session on Thursday with all but Odion Ighalo, who has been ruled out, Tyronne Ebuehi, and Jamilu Collins taking part.
Speaking after the session, Eguavoen admitted amongst other things that the expectations of Nigerians on the Super Eagles to win the nation's fourth AFCON title has put him under 'some pressure' but adds he is more relaxed now.
"Pressure? yes, obviously because it's not me," Eguavoen stated. "Even if it's [Jose] Mourinho, [Antonio] Conte, [Pep] Guardiola, name it - the biggest coaches in the world, Gernot Rohr - you can't say you're not under pressure."
"It's like Manchester City, probably one of the best teams in the world right now, playing the best brand of football. Guardiola is one coach that I adore - I like other coaches as well but his approach is very different and he's not been able to win the Champions League in Man City."
"So, he cannot say he's not under pressure. He wants to win. So, people saying 'yes, they want Nigeria to win the AFCON', that puts me under some pressure. I will say a little bit of pressure but I am now more relaxed than about a week or two ago."
Update on Odion Ighalo and possible replacements
Meanwhile, the interim coach, also known as Cerezo, gave an update on 2019 AFCON top scorer, Odion Ighalo, who is still being expected to join his teammates in Cameroon after missing the camping in Abuja due to club-related issues.
However, while Eguavoen confirmed that Ighalo is a major doubt, he remains optimistic that the former Manchester United star would still link up with the team in Cameroon.
"We spoke (with Ighalo) yesterday (on Wednesday), sent text messages and from his response, he's doing everything possible to come by.
The former Super Eagles defender also confirmed that he wanted to replace Ighalo with the duo of Nasarawa United's striker, Silas Nwankwo, and 19-year-old Hammarby star, Akinkunmi Amoo, who is one of Pulse's 10 youngsters to look out for in 2022, but was stopped by CAF.
"I thought of replacing him (Ighalo), I gave a deadline and tried to bring in either the boy from Nasarawa. Nwankwo, a striker -a good player no doubt - and Amoo, but he's not a striker but can play off a striker.
So, I thought of replacing Ighalo with any of them but what they (CAF) is saying is (that it's) only based on injuries, health reasons that you can replace someone. So, that's the only thing holding us back (from replacing Ighalo)."
Eguavoen concluded with a bit of optimism that despite all that has happened, he hopes Ighalo can still join them in Cameroon as all hands are on deck to resolve the issue with his club.
"The Federation (NFF) is putting all efforts, Odion is also doing his best from there. Hopefully, we get a positive answer," he added.
The Super Eagles arrived in Garuoa, Cameroon, late on Wednesday night and had their first training session on Thursday evening at the Stade Roumde Adjia, where they will play all their Group D matches.