Ex-international Wasiu Ipaye stated on Thursday that despite doubts about the list of invited players for the 2023 Côte d’Ivoire Africa Nation’s Cup (AFCON), the Super Eagles may surprise fans by performing well at the tournament.
Ipaye, a former defensive midfielder, made this statement in an interview in Lagos.
The former First Bank Football Club player pointed out that the exclusion of home-based players showed that the team's handlers did not rate the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) highly.
"With a few days to go, I want to be positive. The boys need encouragement. Despite the not-so-impressive list of selected players, I hope we'd all be surprised in a good way.
"Personally, I feel the exclusion of home-based players may be a disservice. Some of the foreign-based players are not even playing in the first division leagues. We place so much emphasis on foreign-based players.
"Look at Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria; the majority of their players are home-based. It’s the way you make your bed that you lie on it. I know the coach has the final say.
"Look at what Clement Westerhof was able to do with the team. He made it a point of duty to watch our domestic league matches and selected the best talents.
"Dismissing our home-based players is detrimental to the development of football in Nigeria," he said.
Regarding the absence of the Leicester City duo of Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho, Ipaye, a member of the 1990 AFCON squad, said their absence would encourage other players to toughen up and deliver.
"I think Kelechi played in some of the friendly matches, but I can’t say the same for Ndidi. The coach knows what other players can do. So, I believe whoever is selected to play will deliver.
"I remember our opening match in 1990; we lost 5-1 to Algeria. The two teams met in the finals although we lost 1-0. So, that’s football; nothing is cast in stone.
"As long as the coach knows how to combine his players, he will get the much-needed result.
"My advice to the team is to take it one match at a time and stay focused, play as a unit. I wish the Super Eagles the best," Ipaye said.
The tournament is scheduled to kick off from Jan. 13 to Feb. 11.
The Super Eagles, now in Abu Dhabi for a one-week training camp, will later proceed to Abidjan where they will face Equatorial Guinea in the opening Group A match on Jan. 14 and later Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau.
The Super Eagles, three-time champions of the tournament (1980, 1994, and 2013), hope to win the trophy for the fourth time when the tournament kicks off in January.