AFCON 2021: ‘I did not resign’, Eguavoen debunks rumour

Nigeria’s national team interim head coach, Augustine Eguavoen, has denied resigning after his position following Nigeria’s defeat in the round 16 stage of the AFCON 2021 competition.

Nigeria lost to Tunisia 1-0 during the AFCON match on Sunday.

Recall, Eguavoen while speaking after Sunday’s loss to Tunisia, noted that he would return to his job as Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF) Technical Director.

He had said; “I am the interim coach and Technical Director of the NFF, I will go back to my position and allow the Federation (NFF) make a decision on the way forward.”

However, speaking with The Guardian at Hotel Le Ribador, shortly before the team left Garoua for Abuja, Eguavoen said he felt bad that the Super Eagles crashed out of the tournament at such level despite the support from Nigerians.

Commeting on the rumour of his resignation, he said; “I did not resign. Some people are mischievous. I never said so. I know that you can’t be everybody’s favourite. Such report coming from a journalist is not good.”

He however revealed; “I became emotional just like the players at the end of the match, but that is football for you. We tried our best to win, even after Alex Iwobi was given a red card.

“Before then, we had a big chance to change the game, but things didn’t work for us. In the second half, we knew that Kelechi Iheanacho was on yellow and we did not want to risk him. Our game plan then, was to go through the middle and that was why we brought in Alex Iwobi and Sidiq Umar. But the red card to Iwobi affected the plan. I have spoken with the players. I have told Iwobi to move on. He is a young boy and needs to be encouraged.”

Also commenting on President Muhammadu Buhari’s call to the team prior to the kickoff, Eguavoen said; “Mr. President has been our number one supporter. And like a father, his call to his children was to motivate us. I commend him for the step he took. We appreciate his support for the team.

“It was unfortunate we couldn’t go past the round of 16 in this tournament. We have to put this disappointment behind us as quickly as possible and face the task ahead, which is the qualification for Qatar 2022 World Cup,” he stated.

Eguavoen also absolved goalkeeper Maduka Okoye of any blame in Sunday’s defeat by Tunisia. 

“We cannot hold Okoye responsible for the defeat. That will be unfair. The ball came through bodies, and it became difficult for Okoye to see it. I still rate Okoye as one of our best goalkeepers”.

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