Drawn a bye into the second round, the Golden Eaglets will on Saturday host the Junior Menas of Niger in what is regarded as a contest between two familiar foes and it would be a straight fourth contest in four years between the two countries.
At the last U-17 AFCON Championship hosted by Niger last year, the Golden Eaglets came fourth but not without defeating the Junior Menas 2-0 inside their Stade Général Seyni Kountché in Niamey and two years earlier, the Nigeriens equally suffered a 4-1 defeat at home and 6-0 deficit away in Calabar in Southern Nigeria.
Speaking with CAFOnline.com ahead of Saturday’s encounter with the northern neighbours, Garba was confident of extending the Golden Eaglets’ winning streak over the Junior Menas.
Below are excerpts of his interview;
Cafonline.com: can you tell us briefly about preparation for the clash against Niger on Saturday?
Manu Garba: Frankly, it has been challenging but with God on our side, we have been able to prune the team down to a sizable number. This weekend's match is our most important game and it's our intention to win every game in order to qualify for the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations. This is the first leg and we must try to win by a convincing margin before going to Niamey for the second leg. We remain focused in our qualification bid, and all we need now, is a win in our first leg against Niger on Saturday.
Is this a new experience for you though you previously won the FIFA U-17 World Cup twice in your career?
It is not a new experience per see but every assignment has its own challenges and peculiarities. It has not been easy this time due to one reason or another; but we have put that behind us. We are very focussed on how to beat Niger come Saturday.
You managed a 10-1 aggregate win over Niger in your last dispensation as the Golden Eaglets coach. Are we going to a see repeat of that?
As I said earlier, no two assignments or matches are the same. In the last time, we had a long preparation with the players before our match against Niger in 2012 compared to what we have at now. Nigeria is a dominant force at this level and we are rated number one in the world; and I believe we have the team that can beat Niger or any country for that matter. This team can only get better but our concern now is the first leg against Niger on Saturday.
What is your team’s priority?
The ultimate thing for us is to win every game and you know what that means if we are able to do that. It is good to have such an ambition to win the AFCON and the FIFA World Cup but we have to start with the qualifiers. For now, the most important match for us is Saturday’s match against Niger here in Abuja and every other thing would come consequently. As we progress, we are still going to get more quality players into the team; with God on our side, this team will rule Africa.
Who are the players you are looking up to?
We don’t have ‘stars’ per see rather we want to ensure that we play as a unit. There is no player that is guaranteed a shirt in this team. We have a pool of players and they know they can only be part of the team when they give their best. We want the players to be as competitive as the team we had in 2013 when players like Kelechi Iheanacho was not even sure of being in the starting line up at some point. We want to build a team that is very strong in all departments and we already have some players that can carry the rest of the team in all the departments.
Saturday, 6 August 2016
Nigeria vs Niger
Egypt vs Ethiopia
South Africa vs Tanzania
Namibia vs Congo
Comoros vs Mozambique
Sunday, 7 August 2016
Ghana vs Burkina Faso
Benin vs Cote d’Ivoire
Algeria vs Gabon
Tunisia vs Senegal
Guinea vs Morocco
Zambia vs Sudan
Cameroon vs Kenya
Mauritius vs Angola
Saturday, 13 August 2016
Chad vs Mali