The Nigerian national team has suddenly become the toast of everyone, including the fans and the media, but for the country’s leading gloveman, the target remains to lift the trophy
Watford goalkeeper Maduka Okoye has made it clear that the overriding aim of the Super Eagles is to finish as the winners of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
Ahead of the 33rd edition of the continental showpiece, the Eagles were not given much of a chance to make it to the final for various reasons.
A less than ideal preparation saw long-serving head coach Gernot Rohr sacked barely a month to the championship, with the appointment of former international Augustine Eguavoen as Rohr’s temporary replacement inspiring little confidence in the team.
As though things were not bad enough, three key strikers in the form of Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, 2019 Afcon top goalscorer Odion Ighalo, and Watford linchpin Emmanuel Dennis withdrew from Nigeria’s Afcon squad on the eve of the competition.
And with a Mohamed Salah-skippered Egypt waiting as the Eagles’ first group opponent at the Afcon, many Nigerian fans feared the worst.
But Okoye and co put up a near-perfect defensive display to tame the Liverpool hero, providing the platform for Kelechi Iheanacho’s first-half strike to power the Super Eagles to a dominant win.
The three-time Afcon kings are now widely rated as one of the likely winners of Cameroon 2021.
Okoye is not distracted by the hype, with the Sparta Rotterdam ace choosing instead to focus on the sacrifices the team made and the tough road they took to get to their current status.
Only one thing will make it all worth it: winning the Afcon Cup.
“We fought for a long time to be able to take part in this tournament,” Okoye told RP online as per Fupa.
“Now, of course, we also want to give everything that is in us.
“Our goal is to get the trophy.”
Nigeria will next trade tackles with Sudan on Saturday at the same stadium where the Pharaohs were humbled – the Roumde Adjia Stadium in Garoua.
Okoye, who has received profuse praises from Super Eagles vice-captain Williams Troost-Ekong, will most likely continue in goal as the number one goalie ahead of Daniel Akpeyi and Francis Uzoho.
And against the Falcons of Jediane, the Eagles will chase a win that will seal their passage to the tournament’s knockout round.