Nigeria coach dismisses concerns his team are top-heavy ahead of AFCONSat, 13 Jan 2024 13:33:04 GMT

Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro on Saturday batted away concerns the Super Eagles’ attacking prowess is not matched in other areas of their team as they prepare to begin their Africa Cup of Nations bid.The three-time champions open their campaign against Equatorial Guinea in Abidjan on Sunday with a team spearheaded by African footballer of the year Victor Osimhen.Even with a series of withdrawals, Nigeria can call on some of Africa’s best attackers, including Kelechi Iheanacho, Terem Moffi, Samuel Chukwueze, Moses Simon and Ademola Lookman.But there is nothing like the same strength in depth elsewhere, with concerns in particular about the goalkeeping position.Francis Uzoho of Omonia Nicosia in Cyprus has been their first choice there in recent matches.”I believe in my players, in all of them from the goalkeeper to the striker,” Peseiro told reporters in Abidjan.”Every team sometimes has more power in certain positions. It happens to all national teams.”It is my job and responsibility to create a good organisation, but the main point is that I believe in them.”Nigeria have been hit by injuries, with Bayer Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface, Real Sociedad’s Umar Sadiq and Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi all pulling out close to the kick-off.Peseiro confirmed that Moffi, of French Ligue 1 side Nice, will not arrive in time to feature against Equatorial Guinea, while Iheanacho and late addition Paul Onuachu had only just landed in Ivory Coast.”Kelechi arrived at 4 this morning and so he is completely recovered,” Peseiro said.”Boniface is injured but Moffi arrives tomorrow at 8pm. Sadiq is injured also, and Onuachu arrived at 4am this morning.”The (injured) players are sad, but we have 25 players with quality.”All eyes are on Osimhen, described by Nigeria captain Ahmed Musa as “the king of Africa”.Yet the Super Eagles have not convinced recently, losing to Guinea in their last warm-up game.Their chances of reaching the 2026 World Cup finals have already been compromised after draws in qualifying against Lesotho and Zimbabwe in November.”The last game in World Cup qualifying was not good, but until now we have only lost one (competitive) game, at home to Guinea-Bissau, in which we created many opportunities,” insisted Peseiro.Nigeria will face Guinea-Bissau at the AFCON and will have the chance to avenge that reverse in qualifying in Abuja.”Playing for Nigeria is not easy, with the history, the stress, the pressure. The people of Nigeria want to win, like us.”I am not afraid for me and my team. They need to answer on the pitch. We need to understand the criticism. We have been playing well, but the results in those matches are in the past. This is a different competition.”