Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi has heaped praise on Sunday Mba after he scored the winning goal in his side’s 2-1 victory over the Ivory Coast.
The 24-year-old, who plays his club football for the Warri Wolves in his homeland, finished off a wonderful run with a deflected goal from the edge of the box to hand the Super Eagles a memorable quarter-final triumph at the Africa Cup of Nations.
While Keshi was keen to highlight the performance of the team as a whole, he reserved special admiration for Mba, who he described as the “humblest” player in the squad.
“Yes I’m happy. I’m happy for Mba. It’s not about individuals we just want to win the games. There’s no one hero in our team, everybody is a hero,” Keshi said.
“It just so happens that Mba is the humblest (player) that scored a beautiful goal and the winning goal. Maybe after I leave here I will have to go and kiss him and say thank you. But it’s good to see that the humblest players – if they are given the opportunity, they can do a lot better.”
Keshi, who won the tournament as a player with Nigeria in 1994, refused to be drawn into commenting on the Ivory Coast’s failure to win a major tournament yet again, instead choosing to focus on his own side’s character in the victory.
“How do I feel that their (Ivory Coast) big stars are not playing in the Africa Cup of Nations (any) more? It’s not my business,” he said.
“I’m just glad that my team is progressing every game. There’s great discipline in the team. I just want to congratulate them again. I just hope that we keep going that way.”
Nigeria will now prepare to take on Mali in their semi-final on Wednesday and despite earlier external criticisms of his squad selection, including the omission of Peter Odemwingie and Obafemi Martins, Keshi insisted he has complete faith in his players.
“Truthfully we work hard but they somehow they don’t see our hard work. People don’t appreciate it. But I know that within my camp and my players; the mentality that is instilled, the concentration levels that we have, I know we will do something,” he said
“I just know that the boys that are in camp are the right boys that I picked and I just have confidence in them. That’s it.”