YAOUNDE. — In Augustine Eguavoen, Nigeria are relying on an interim appointment to lead them at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, albeit a familiar face who knows what it takes to be a continental champion.
The Super Eagles face Guinea-Bissau in their final group game in Garoua today having already secured a place in the last 16 as winners of their section with two victories from two outings, including one over Mohamed Salah’s Egypt.
Garoua is a short hop from Cameroon’s border with Nigeria, where fans could be forgiven for already feeling optimistic about their team’s chances of winning a fourth Cup of Nations.
Their smooth start to the tournament has been in contrast to their tumultuous build-up which saw long-serving German coach Gernot Rohr sacked in December and Eguavoen named as caretaker.
The vastly experienced Rohr (68) had been at the helm since 2016, notably leading Nigeria to third place at the 2019 Afcon in Egypt. Many in the country felt Rohr had overstayed his welcome.
Eguavoen (56) had been working as the Nigeria Football Federation’s technical director before being asked to replace Rohr and fill in on the bench until Portugal’s Jose Peseiro takes over.
The interim boss belongs to a golden generation of Nigerian players. He captained the team to victory in the 1994 Cup of Nations final against Zambia.
A defender, Eguavoen played alongside Jay Jay Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Finidi George, Daniel Amokachi and Emmanuel Amunike, the last the match-winner in 1994.
Nigeria also reached the last 16 of that year’s World Cup and Eguavoen later led the team to a third-place finish at the 2006 Afcon.
This is his third spell in charge. This time it came as a surprise to many in Nigeria where the decision to hand him the reins was not warmly received.
Many felt he was too close to the current leadership of the NFF in his role as technical director.
Remembered as a big and effective central defender, Eguavoen is a gentleman off the pitch and commands respect without being as popular as the likes of Okocha or Oliseh.
Yet he is confident of what he can achieve with a strong squad that is particularly fearsome in attack with Europe-based stars like Samuel Chukwueze, Kelechi Iheanacho, Moses Simon and Taiwo Awoniyi. — AFP.