The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations is about three weeks away, but scepticism, fears, and questions linger in the hearts of Nigerian fans as many are in doubt of the ability of Nigeria’s gaffer Austin Eguavoen to lead the Super Eagles to victory in Cameroon.
The 56-year-old took over the Super Eagles reins from German tactician Gernot Rohr after the latter was sacked earlier this month.
But whilst that decision looked ill-timed, Eguavoen will look to do the most with the little time he has before the AFCON.
However, whilst Eguavoen may be a stranger to coaching the present crop of Super Eagles, he is not entirely new to the job. The former Sharks gaffer already had two previous stints as Super Eagles coach.
However, it was only during his first stint-in 2006- that he led the Super Eagles to battle for the holy grail of African football.
Eguavoen led the Super Eagles to the 2006 AFCON in Egypt, with the likes of Julius Aghahowa, Obafemi Martins and Taiye Taiwo at his disposal.
However, he could only lead Nigeria to a third-place finish. While a third place may not seem like a bad finish, it could be viewed as an average finish when juxtaposed with Nigeria’s record at the tournament.
Nigeria did well in the group stage, claiming convincing victories in all three fixtures against Ghana, Zimbabwe and Senegal. However, all the five group stage goals came in the second half.
In the Quarter-final against Tunisia, the Eguavoen tutored side triumphed again, albeit on penalties. However, their journey was brought to a halt by Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba.
The Nigerian side lost to a very strong Ivorian side which had the likes of Kalou, Toure, Zakora, and former Arsenal star Eboue.
Nevertheless, the Nigerian side still clinched the bronze medal in the third-place match after a late winner from Garba Lawal.
Under the tutelage of Eguavoen, the Super Eagles scored seven goals at the 2006 AFCON, six of which were second-half goals.
However, it is almost 16 years since that competition, with a totally different set of players, most of whom are young but not new to action on the African continent.
Nigeria emerged third at the last AFCON after a painful loss to Algeria in the Semis. However, Eguavoen will look to help the Super Eagles do one better and return a semblance of the joy that Nigerians felt when the Super Eagles soared to victory in 2013.