Flying Eagles’ chief coach Manu Garba is sounding very confident of his players’ abilities to weather the storm in Senegal and beat every opponent on their way to win this year’s edition of the African Youth Championship. In this interview with Goal’s Shemmy Sholabomi, Garba spoke on his team’s readiness for the competition and the dropped players as a result of injuries and clubs’ refusal to release them. The team would fly directly to
Senegal for the competition that begins on Sunday, March 8. Nigeria have been drawn in Group A alongside hosts Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Congo.
Having picked your list of 21 players for the African Youth Championship, what are your expectations for the tournament?
I have absolute confidence in these players and our strategy is to take on our opponents as they come. Our intention is to win every match as it comes. With God on our side, I believe we will come back home with the AYC trophy.
Which player are you going to miss the most in this team when you go for the AYC?
I will tell you that I am not going to miss any player in this team when competition kicks off in Senegal. The major reason is that a coach that is worth his onions and is serious about his job needs to concentrate on what he has at his disposal to get the kind of results he craves for. We cannot shy away from the fact that players like Kelechi Iheanacho, Isaac Success, Musa Yahaya and Wilfred Ndidi are very strong members of the team. If included they would have made the team stronger and they could have added value to this team but the team must move on without them. We have been able to identify and pick the 21-man squad that we believe will make this country proud in Senegal. We want to qualify for the U20 World Cup in New Zealand and go to Chile as African champions. That is our mission, and with God on our side, we will achieve this.
You are sounding very confident about your team, are you wary of any of your opponents that can shock your team like the South African team shocked the Golden Eaglets in the semi-final of the U17 Championship?
I have already inculcated into the team never to underrate any team no matter how small they may look or are perceived to be. So my team will never be caught unawares because we are ready for any antics from our opponents. We are not going to underrate or overrate any team that comes our way and if our ambition is to win the cup then we must be ready to weather any storm on our way. We will fight for the World Cup qualification and also fight hard to emerge as champions of Africa at the end of the competition. All the teams in this competition are capable of qualifying for the World Cup and they are all strong teams. So any team that dares underrate any team in any of the groups will pay dearly for it. This is a continental championship and the very best in the continent are gathering for this tournament so any team is a threat. But like I said, we are prepared for this and we are going for the World Cup ticket and also for the trophy.
Are you saying this team is ready for the 2015 African Youth Championship in Senegal now having concluded your preparations and as well submitted your final list for the event?
We are very optimistic that this team will do very well at the AYC. We are confident of this team and we know the strength of the team we have built for this tournament so we know it is strong enough to challenge for the trophy and win it. By the time the competition kicks off, Nigerians will be very happy with this team.
Finally which other country do you strongly tip to play in the final of this competition?
Despite the fact that we defeated the Black Satellites of Ghana in the second friendly in Tema, what I saw in the Ghanaian team points to the fact that they can also get to the final of this competition. They have individual quality stars that if their coach Sellas Tetteh finishes work on them and makes them play as a unit and as a team, it will be very difficult for their opponents to beat them. Like I told them in Ghana, I am tipping Nigeria and Ghana to play in the final of this year’s Africa Youth Championship in Senegal. But on a final note, our ambition is to go to the Fifa U20 World Cup as African champions, a reason why we are taking this Championship very, very serious.
Are you still nursing the ambition of camping in Gambia or any other place for the AYC?
No we are not camping anywhere again. The team will move directly from Nigeria to Senegal, venue of the Africa Youth Championship.
Goal is wishing your team best of luck in Senegal
Thank you. Pray for us and we won’t disappoint football loving Nigerians. We will work very hard on and off the field of play to ensure Nigeria carries the day in Senegal.