Super Eagles’ assistant coach, Imama Amapakabo is refusing to give up hope of Nigeria’s qualification to next year’s Championship of Africa Nations (CHAN 2020) in Cameroon, as he insists Sunday’s 4-1 loss away to Togo in the first leg does not meant the home-based team are out of the race.
After failing to see his lads hold their own in Lome, despite scoring the game’s first goal, Amapakabo stressed that they have a golden opportunity of setting everything right and back on track with the second leg at home.
He also pointed out that he and his players have enough time to prepare for the reverse fixture, which holds in the middle of next month, ahead of which the former Rangers International of Enugu and El-Kanemi Warriors of Maiduguri coach pledged to work on all errors noted during Sunday’s implosion and get better tactics for victory at home.
The ex-youth international former goalkeeper disclosed that he is staying upbeat, event after The Hawks of Togo showed immense understanding and togetherness against a hastily assembled home-based Eagles’ squad made up of under-23 team players, some foreign-based returnees and veterans of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), which is yet to resume for action.
Nonetheless, against all expectations of the hosts, Sunusi Ibrahim gave Nigeria the lead in the 8th minute before the Togolese trio of Richard Nane (16′ and 67′); Tchakei Marouf (75′); and Agoro Ashraf (90+2′) completed the comeback for the hosts.
At the end of it all, Amapakabo said he remains optimistic that the result at Stade de Kegue will not determine which team qualifies and, though he affirmed that his players did not underrate the Togolese, he admitted there is a huge job to be done in order to win the return leg.
Amapakabo declared: “It is wrong to think that this match would determine which team goes through. We know there is a second match and no two games can ever be the same. We never underrated our opponents. That would have been a foolish thing to do in football.
“The truth is that we fielded mainly a young team that could not really live up to expectations technically compared to the senior players in the Togolese side who have gained experience over the years.
“However, we have taken this as a learning curve moving forward and await the return match. From now until October 19, it is still quite some time away to make amends and produce the right form for the work ahead. It is after the match in Nigeria that it can become clear who qualifies.”