Super Eagles' coach, Stephen Keshi was full of praise for Atletico Baleares star, Raheem Lawal despite Nigeria’ 0-1 loss to Peru in Thursday’s international friendly at the Estadio Nacional del Peru, Lima.
Jose Paolo Guerrero’s 37th minute strike gave the South Americans the win in a tightly fought contest which represented Nigeria’s final friendly game before the 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifying game against Namibia on June 3.
Raheem along with Gege Soriola and Sunday Mbah came on as second half substitutes to telling effect against the Blanquirroja with Keshi quick to single out the attacker for special praise.
“Raheem did well but so also did most of the boys,” Keshi told SuperSport.com after the game.
The former national team captain also urged the players to stay upbeat about the upcoming qualifying matches.
“I told the boys to relax because it is only a friendly match and that the result would not necessarily determine who makes the squad for the upcoming World and Nations Cup qualifying matches,” he said.
Meanwhile, assistant coach, Sylvanus Okpala has voiced his opinion about the refereeing in the game.
Okpala, who earned 45 caps and scored five times for the Nigerian national team between 1979 and 1988 did not exactly have kind words for referee Jose Espinel.
Espinel booked three Nigerians, Ejike Uzoenyi, Azubuike Egwuekwe and Gege Soriola in the game and has been accused by Okpala of ‘intimidating the Super Eagles.’
“It was obvious that the referee was trying to intimidate the Super Eagles in the manner he was booking our boys. We suffered a similar fate during our last friendly match against Egypt.
“But our boys have done well against a top side that did well at the last Copa America. The competition (against Peru) was much higher than the Egypt game but our boys did well,” he said.
The team will train in Lima on Thursday morning before departing for Nigeria on Friday with Soriola, Obiora Nwankwo, Nnamdi Oduamadi and Lawal leaving for their respective bases.
The four players are expected to join the rest of the squad in Calabar on Sunday.