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Football | Afcon

Stephen Keshi © Action Images

Nigeria still building as a team - Keshi



After becoming only the second man to win the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) as a player and coach, Nigeria's Stephen Keshi believes his victorious Super Eagles outfit will continue to improve as a squad.

Sunday Mba struck with a left-footed volley shortly before halftime as Nigeria beat Burkina Faso 1-0 at the National Stadium on Sunday to end a 19-year Afcon trophy drought by claiming their third continental title.

Keshi was delighted with his team's efforts throughout the tournament, qualifying second in their group and then going on to beat Mali 4-1 in the semifinals, en route to the final in Johannesburg.

"There is a lot of potential in this team, but we need patience," Keshi said.

"We need to work very hard. I have pushed the players, but we have not arrived. We are still working, we are still building.

"But I am so proud of what they did in this tournament, they kept their concentration throughout, so I am happy about that and I hope it continues.

"There is a lot of quality in the players that right now I might say is about 80 percent of what they can give. With hard work and a lot of motivation I think they will be right up there."

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The only other man to lift the trophy as player and coach was Egypt's Mahmoud El Gohary, who helped his country defeat Sudan 2-1 in the 1959 final and guided the Pharaohs to a 2-0 victory over South Africa 39 years later.

"Winning this tournament is mainly for my nation," Keshi said.

"When I came aboard close to a year-and-a-half ago, my dream was to make all Nigerians happy and to know that they have a very good team.

"We are not there yet, it's still a process, I am happy about that.

"I want to dedicate this to all Nigerian coaches who have been praying for this team. It's not for me alone, I hope some other African coaches will get to this position and make their nation proud."

As a player, Keshi triumphed with a golden generation of Super Eagles in a 2-1 victory against Zambia in 1994, with 'Big Boss' – as he is affectionately known – lifting the trophy in his third attempt at the title as coach, having suffered first-round knockouts with Togo in 2006 and Mali in 2010.

Keshi said they were looking ahead to the future, which now includes going to Brazil later this year to take part in the Confederations Cup.

"But we need a lot of experience in the team and that's coming, because when you play teams like these, or competitions like these, the boys gain a lot of experience.

"Qualifying for the Confederations Cup in Brazil is an honour for Nigerians. That will only enhance our quality of play and our knowledge."

Veteran Super Eagles captain Joseph Yobo said winning the Afcon title was his biggest achievement as a player, scooping the gold medal in his final attempt at the continental showpiece.

"In my international career, this is a dream come true," Yobo said.

"I've been around for 11 or 12 years and this is my sixth Afcon. I said before that this would be my last, not because I cannot play anymore, but I realised that I have given it a lot of time."

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