Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has maintained his team are still a work in progress even after they thrashed Mali 4-1 on Wednesday to reach the Africa Cup of Nations final.
“We’re just growing, I’m still building,” said Keshi after the Super Eagles flew past Mali at Moses Mabhida Stadium in this port city.
“There is a lot of talent and potential in this team, but it will take time for us to be a real team.”
After a laboured start to this tournament, where they failed to win their first two matches against Burkina Faso and Zambia, the Eagles are now in full flight and on track to win a third title.
The Nigeria coach said they struggled because they had yet to gel as a team, and also due to fatigue from a punishing schedule at a training camp in Faro, Portugal, prior to the tournament.
“It was a little difficult at the beginning of this tournament because we were only coming together for the first time,” he explained.
“We worked hard in Portugal, but I believe we were tired, and so for the first two to three games, it was a bit difficult for us.”
Keshi was captain of the team that last won Nigeria the Nations Cup in 1994 and the ‘Big Boss’ said the current team are still a long way off reaching the standard set by that side.
“The 1994 squad was unbelieveable. We were brothers, there was a great spirit in the team, now there is the talent, but we need a strong mentality and character,” he explained.
Nigeria last played in the Nations Cup final in 2000, when they co-hosted the competition with Ghana.
However, they lost the final on penalties to arch-rivals Cameroon after a 2-2 draw.
“Considering the talent we have, it has been a long time since we got to the final again. I’m therefore delighted that we have crossed over today,” said skipper Joseph Yobo, who won his 92nd cap on Wednesday as a substitute.
“Our confidence has shot up since we defeated the Ivory Coast.
“The final is where you have to prove everything and, personally, it would be great after so many years with the national team to finally win a major trophy.”