The Super Eagles of Nigeria clinched their third Africa Cup of Nations title in 2013 under the guidance of late Steven Keshi
Former Lazio midfielder Ogenyi Onazi revealed that return tickets were purchased for the Nigerian national team in anticipation of their 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualification tie against Côte d’Ivoire, Soccernet.ng reports.
At the time, the Super Eagles of Nigeria, led by the late Stephen Keshi, were considered underdogs and underrated due to their previous performances.
Reports suggest that the Nigeria Football Federation had already arranged return tickets, assuming they wouldn’t defeat the formidable Ivory Coast team in the quarterfinals.
Onazi explained in an interview with Soccernet’s Managing Editor, Lolade Adewuyi, that they were asked about their post-match plans to determine their travel arrangements.
“It was not handed out to us, but we were contacted. They were asking, ‘Where are you going to? Are you going to Nigeria, or are you going back to your club?'” he said.
Onazi, who was an active member of Lazio at the time, felt embarrassed by the notion and questioned the pessimism surrounding their chances.
“It was really embarrassing. Not because they were asking per se, but I was saying, ‘Is this how we are going to leave the tournament?’ and we have not played the game. I didn’t even say anything to the person who was asking. I said, ‘Leave my ticket; I will find my way when the time comes.’ But I had this positivity, and I said, ‘No, it’s not possible. We cannot come to this tournament and go just like that. So why should we give up when we have not even taken to the pitch?'”
Prior to the match, team captain Joseph Yobo, who had a disagreement with former Chelsea star Mikel Obi, put aside their issues and delivered a motivating speech to his teammates, championing their victory against the Elephants.
“Something interesting happened before the match against Ivory Coast. The big boss had a meeting after our lunch. When he finished, Joseph Yobo, the captain, said we should all wait. So when he said we should wait, he had been having this little issue with Mikel [Obi]. So immediately the coaching staff went out, he just burst at Mikel [Obi] immediately.” Onazi recalled.
After the team calmed down, Yobo addressed the squad: “I know I have some issues with Mikel, but that’s okay. We have a very important game ahead of us. And I know I am not starting this game, but I know you guys in there will do us proud. Yes, we must have these small fights, but it’s to strengthen us and show us that we are strong as a team. And I am wishing you guys all the best. You guys go out there and prove that we can beat these guys. It’s good that we are the underdogs, and it’s better we are already written off by our country. We know that we have tickets already to go back to our country and clubs.”
Mikel also spoke, saying, “Guys, yes, we will fight ourselves inside, but let’s fight our opponents outside.”
Watch the video here:
The Super Eagles won the game 2-1, with goals from Emmanuel Emenike, Cheick Tiote, and Sunday Mba, advancing to the semi-finals where they faced Mali.