AFCON: Eguavoen, a link from Nigeria’s golden generation


Nigeria’s interim boss at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, Augustine Eguavoen, may have the skill to win the title, after winning it as a player.

The “Super Eagles” face Guinea Bissau in their final Group D match in Garoua on Wednesday (8:00 p.m.), but they have already secured their place in the Round of 16 with two convincing wins in two games, including a 1-0 victory over Mohamed Salah’s Egypt.

Nigerian fans are therefore confident that their team will win the AFCON for the fourth time.

The smooth start to the tournament by striker Taiwo Awoniyi’s teammates contrasts with their tumultuous preparation, which saw their long-time coach, Germany’s Gernot Rohr, sacked in December and Eguavoen appointed as interim.

The highly experienced Rohr, 68, had been at the helm since 2016, including leading Nigeria to the 2018 World Cup and a third-place finish at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, but his continued tenure had subsequently sparked controversy.

Eguavoen, 56, worked as technical director of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) before getting the offer to replace Rohr and take over the bench until Portugal’s Jose Peseiro took over.

– Okocha and Oliseh –

The interim belongs to a golden generation of Nigerian players. He captained the team to victory in the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations final against Zambia.

The former defender with 49 caps played for the national team alongside Jay Jay Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Finidi George, Daniel Amokachi and Emmanuel Amunike.

Nigeria also reached the round of 16 at the World Cup in the United States that year.

Eguavoen went on to lead the Super Eagles to third place at the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations in his first stint as coach. With a brief interlude in 2010, this is the third time he has led the Nigerian national team.

However, the decision to hand him the reins of the team again was not well received in Nigeria. Many felt that he was too close to the current NFF leadership in his role as technical director.

– “Head on your shoulders” –

He is confident in what he can achieve with a strong team, especially formidable in attack with European-based players like Samuel Chukwueze, Kelechi Iheanacho and Moses Simon.

Nigeria is off to a good start and has a favourable path to the finals. If Eguavoen goes all the way, the NFF could find themselves in a tough spot.

Peseiro, who has coached Sporting in his home country, Egyptian giants Al Ahly and the Saudi Arabian national team, is due to take up his post after the Africa Cup of Nations, with Nigeria’s qualification for the next World Cup in the play-offs in March in mind.