Ex-international, Dimeji Lawal, has said the Super Eagles cannot wish away the experience of the captain of the team, Mikel Obi, as they will need him to excel at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt:
Shooting Stars starred the season on a poor note. What’s the expectation on the team?
The most important thing for us is to get the sole ticket from the group and we are leaving no stone unturned to achieve that.
The opening day draw was not good for us especially playing at home, but we are surely going to make it up with matches away from home and gain promotion back to the Nigeria Professional Football League.
How do you aim to achieve this?
We already made it clear to the players and they are ready for what’s ahead of them.
After the disappointment of not gaining promotion the last time, they have agreed within themselves to go all out this time around and I am sure we are going to achieve our goal.
The Super Eagles have been drawn against Madagascar, Burundi and Guinea for the 2019 AFCON in Egypt, do you see this as easy opponents for the team?
It looks very easy on paper especially with two of the teams coming to the AFCON for the first time, but we should not take them for granted or we are going to get the shock of our lives in Egypt.
We have to prepare very well for them because all teams that qualified are not push over. The players should take all matches same way so as not to find themselves in trouble.
But personally I know they have what it takes to excel in Egypt.
So how best do you think they can prepare for the AFCON?
The programme is there already and I am not so happy after I heard about the cancellation of the friendly game against Ghana.
Even at that we should look for more friendly games and start preparations early. We should not wait till the last minute and not go through the fire brigade approach that we are known for.
The captain of the team, Mikel Obi, has not been part of the team since, do you think he should make the team to AFCON?
The experience of Mikel cannot be wished away. We need him in the team especially with his leadership quality. We should not also forget that he is currently playing in a very strong league and will be ready for the competition.
I am not saying he should walk straight back into the team, he needs to work for it but with the Mikel I know, he won’t disappoint.
There was a big shocker in the UEFA Champions League with Ajax eliminating Juventus after doing same to Real Madrid while Tottenham defeated Man City, what does this mean to you?
It shows the unpredictable aspect of the game, and I love that. It shows that you cannot just say because you have Cristiano Ronaldo in your team then you can defeat anyone.
Ajax players showed that they are not push over and with what they have achieved, alongside Tottenham, it is a good sign for football all over the world.
You have to be at your best always as a team and not look down on your opponent.
Out of the four remaining teams, Barcelona, Liverpool, Tottenham and Ajax, who do you see winning the title?
I see Barcelona doing that because of the quality of players in that team. With Lionel Messi alone, you are playing against 10 men added to the other 10 players on the field, then you are contending with 20 players at a go.
We should not also forget that the players have been together for a while and they have all things going for them at the moment.
Look at the way they defeated Manchester United, it will be difficult for any team to beat them but they will still have to work for it.