Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo says the Nigerian squad at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations is the best he has been involved with.
The lead-up to Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign has been marred by a public spat between Peter Odemwingie and head coach Stephen Keshi, as well as club-versus-country battles involving Newcastle’s Shola Ameobi and Danny Shittu of Millwall.
West Bromwich Albion striker Odemwingie was left out of Keshi’s initial 32-man squad in December and blasted Nigeria’s head coach, claiming the 50-year-old had overlooked him for disparaging comments he had made about Nigerian football.
Meanwhile, Ameobi was not named in the final squad because he did not answer Keshi’s phone calls to confirm his availability for AFCON 2013, and defender Shittu knocked back the opportunity to play.
Despite that less-than-ideal preparation, Yobo insisted the players at Keshi’s disposal are of the highest quality.
“To be very candid with you, this is probably the best squad I have been in so far (at an Africa Cup of Nations),” Yobo said.
“There are always problems, there’s always going to be problems.
“We are human beings and we’re always going to make mistakes, we are always going to disagree but I think what is happening with this squad right now is that the coach has been able to manage that and we’ve managed that pretty well between the players as well.
“We realise that it’s not all about ourselves, it’s about the country and we want to win, we want to achieve something for ourselves because as footballers most of us have been here before, not just myself, and we want to make a good account of ourselves and give everything that we can.”
Nigeria will begin their AFCON campaign on Monday against Burkina Faso in Group C.
Reigning champions Zambia and Nigeria are the clear favourites to advance from Group C ahead of Burkina Faso and Ethiopia.
But Keshi remains convinced Burkina Faso will be tough opponents, claiming the likes of Alain Traore (Lorient, France), Jonathan Pitriopa (Rennes, France) and Aristide Bance (Augsburg, Germany) have the ability and experience to give Nigeria’s defenders some trouble.
“I know the (Burkina Faso) players, they will probably play…4-3-3,” Keshi said.
“They are very good players, mostly upfront, very sharp, have good technique.”