Etuhu: Keshi to give Nigeria new start
Nigeria and Fulham midfielder Dickson Etuhu believes the appointment of Stephen Keshi as Super Eagles boss will see them turn over a new leaf after recent disappointments.
The Super Eagles surprisingly failed to qualify for this season’s African Cup of Nations, leading to the sacking of manager Samson Siasia.
Keshi, a former Nigeria captain who has coached Togo and Mali, was named his successor, and Etuhu believes he was the right choice to lead Africa’s most populous country to next year’s edition.
"We have a great manager now in Stephen Keshi, he was the captain of the team for many years and he is a great person, a good man," Etuhu told Eurosport at the UK final of the FIFA Interactive World Cup on EA SPORTS' FIFA 12.
"It's a privilege to play for Nigeria and now it's heading in the right direction. Now we can look ahead to qualifying next year and we're on the up.
"It's helpful for everyone that (the next Cup) is only next year - it was difficult to see my other mates play and not be part of it."
Etuhu was largely overlooked by Siasia, and rejected his call-up to be a replacement player towards the end of his one-year reign.
The 29-year-old explained his personal dislike of Siasia was behind the decision, hinting that the former Olympic coach’s decision-making was unduly influenced.
"The manager we had before - I didn't get along with him and I didn't believe in him," Etuhu admitted.
"I couldn’t accept the way he went about things, and I am a man of morals. It was painful but I had to turn my back on my country while he was in charge.
"I can't comment on exactly why we didn't qualify as I didn’t play in any of the matches. Hopefully next year we'll be there and qualify for the final - because we have the players on paper, we just needed the right coach and organisation.
"We have that now and I’m looking forward to being involved."
Despite missing out on the finals, Etuhu was a keen observer. Unlike many, he is not surprised that outsiders Zambia won the title, having played against them before.
In stark contrast to the instability and managerial problems that have surrounded Nigeria, Etuhu points out that Zambia are the model of harmony and man-management.
"I wasn't surprised at Zambia – beforehand I said that they are the dark horses in an interview. Everyone said I was crazy but I played them a few years ago, and last time we knocked them out in the quarters - they were so difficult to play then and were like a good European side.
"And since then they have progressed – a lot of which is down to the manager (Herve Renard), who instilled a European style of football and - unlike a lot of managers in Africa - was given the time.
"He had a year off but, in total, he has had three years with the same group of players, during which he taught them a team ethic and a self-belief.
"Managers in Africa are not given long enough because of expectations and politics, and because of their stability Zambia have become one of the best teams in Africa, despite not having the largest group of players.
"They have a great manager and a great team ethic. Those are the hardest teams to beat."
That team ethic famously led Egypt to three consecutive African titles. Another side who failed to qualify this time out, the Pharaohs were hurt by an ageing squad and wider political turmoil.
Etuhu believes that Bob Bradley’s side will be one of the favourites next year.
"The main difference between Zambia and Egypt is Egypt's large pool of good players, who all play in Egypt and are used to each other.
"Those guys are a bit older now so they're going to start rebuilding, which is why they missed out this time – they should have started that process earlier.
"Next year you have to fancy them as one of the best teams though, and I can see them going far."
Dickson Etuhu attended the UK final of the FIFA Interactive World Cup on EA SPORTS’ FIFA 12, which was won by Ty Walton. For more information, visit www.fifa.com/fiwc