14th February, 2011
The Leone Stars confronted Super Eagles in an international friendly match last Wednesday, 9 February.Â After the match, chief coach of Sierra Leone, Christian Cole, whose team were defeated 1-2 by theÂ Eagles spoke with SUNDAY AKINTOYE about the match and his teamâ€™s determination to qualify for the nextÂ Africa Cup of Nations in 2012
Sir, how would you assess the friendly you played against Super Eagles today?
It was a good match. My players played their heart out. This is to tell you that we are equal to theÂ task and ready to win Niger Republic in the next month Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Are you satisfied with the turned out of fans that came to watch the match?
It wasÂ very impressive Lagosians are sports loving people. I was amazed when I saw the large crowdÂ that came to watch our match. I thank God that we were able to score against Eagles in the presence ofÂ their teeming fans. One of the memories we will take home is the loud ovation we got from the LagosÂ fans when we scored in the second half of the encounter.
Did you believe that your team played better than the Super Eagles?
We played better than them in the second half. We did not really get ourselves in the first halfÂ because we were studying them. When we returned for the second half, we caged them and got our goal,Â which was very important to us.
Your next Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers is against Niger Republic, what is your expectation in thatÂ match?
Our target is to win the game and win our remaining home matches.
Donâ€™t you think that beating Niger Republic in Niamey will be very difficult, because as the homeÂ team, they would want to win?
We are ready for them. Our match against Niger Republic will determine our qualification for the nextÂ Africa Cup of Nations in 2012. Anything short of victory will give us a serious set back . We are inÂ the third position in the group. A victory for us against Niger Republic will increase our chances onÂ the group table. Our friendly match against Eagles in Lagos was very timing and it will help us to goÂ all out for victory against Niger Republic in Niamey.
Your team played 1-1 draw with defending champions, Egypt in Cairo and played a goalless draw againstÂ South Africa in Freetown, how would your rate your teamâ€™s performance in their last two games ofÂ Africa Nations Cup Qualifiers?
Honestly , the players really proved a point in Cairo, the African defending champions underrated usÂ and they almost paid for it. We donâ€™t joke with our qualifiers, but we were unlucky to have played aÂ barren draw against South Africa. We dominated the encounter but unfortunately we could not score aÂ goal to justify our performance. It was so painful that we could not clinch the three points at stake.
You played two matches and secured two points to place third position on the group table, donâ€™t youÂ think that your chance of qualifying is very low?
I know the task ahead, that is why our match against Niger Republic is a must win for us. If we canÂ win Niger Republic, we will go to South Africa and beat them and secure our remaining home matches. IÂ think with that we will land in 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
It has been long Sierra Leone qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations, what went wrong?
We hadÂ problems in the past. The last government was not interested in football, so it reallyÂ affected the national team. Aside this, the civil war that erupted in Sierra Leone years back reallyÂ contributed to the poor performance of the National team in our past qualifiers and we thank God thatÂ we are coming up now
WhichÂ club in Nigeria do you enjoy watching their game and why?
I like Enyimba FC because they are among the best club in Africa. I hope they are still doing well inÂ Nigerian League. I remember when they won Africa champions league years back, the club played and wonÂ the cup back to back.
If you have the opportunity to coach Enyimba, would you take the job?
I pray for the opportunity to come because I love Nigeria as a country. If I have the opportunity, IÂ will handle Enyimba because they are one of the best clubs on the continent.
Are you also interested in the Super Eagles job?
Of course yes. Coaching Super Eagles will be the greatest achievement in my coaching career. NigeriaÂ is a big nation in Africa and every African coach wants to handle the Eagles, if the opportunityÂ comes.