Nwankwo Kanu says he is excited by Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi’s management style and believes Nigeria are capable of reaching the semi-finals of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
Nigeria face Argentina, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina in Group F at Brazil 2014.
The Eagles, who have played in the World Cup four times (USA’94, France ’98, Korea/Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010), have not won a match at the football’s showpiece since beating Bulgaria 1-0 in 1998. The African champions reached the second in 1994 and 1998 and exited the competition in the first round in 2002 and 2010 without winning a game.
And former Nigeria captain Kanu, who represented the country in the 1998, 2002 and 2010 finals, is backing the team to break their first round jinx and progress to become the first African side to reach the last four of the World Cup. The best that African teams have managed is reaching the quarterfinals (Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010).
“Luckily we are in a good group and if you ask me, I think it is the easiest group,” the former Arsenal attacker was quoted by Kickoffnigeria.com as saying on Friday.
“ I think our chances are 80 per cent and if we can pass that group, and I know we are going to do that, then we will have more confidence. I know immediately we pass that group, Nigerians are going to be behind the team from the president to ordinary people.
“Maybe we can go to the semi-finals, who knows? I think Africa has a good chance, because we also have Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ghana and Algeria. As for us, we have experienced players who are playing in some top Leagues so we can reach that level.”
Kanu maintains Nigeria could be Africa’s biggest hope in Brazil, saying he believes in Keshi and his team. The former Inter Milan player said, “The strength of the team is unity and the spirit in the camp is very strong. Also, having the ‘Big Boss’ (Keshi) is good for us, because the players listen to him and that is something very important. He pushes them to the limit and if you put those together, we are strong. We don’t rely on one man.
“Mikel Obi is a man who controls the team and coming from a big club Chelsea, all eyes will be on him. We also have Emmanuel Emenike, who I reckon wants to make his mark in the World Cup. He did that in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and I have no doubt he can do it on a world stage as well. We also have a very good goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who is one of the best goalkeepers in France.”