Okocha offers word of caution

LAGOS - Former Nigeria captain Jay-Jay Okocha says the Super Eagles must stop thinking of themselves as giants of African football.

LAGOS - Former Nigeria captain Jay-Jay Okocha says the Super Eagles must stop thinking of themselves as giants of African football.

Nigeria are unbeaten so far in the 2010 World Cup and Africa Cup (Afcon) qualifying rounds. They begin the final stage away to Mozambique this weekend.

Okocha was captain when Nigeria missed out on a place at the 2006 World Cup and he insists they face a tricky opponent in the Black Mambas.

"You cannot predict football these days and playing Mozambique at home will be tough, so they must be respected," Okocha said.

"The Super Eagles must be mindful not to make the same mistakes that cost us the ticket to play at the 2006 World Cup."

Back then Nigeria were expected to win a group which also featured Angola, Rwanda, Algeria and Gabon but they lost out to Angola.

"There is no doubt that we have a good squad but football matches are not won off the pitch but on it.

"We need to realise we're no longer giants of African football and try to humble ourselves and work harder because other teams are working extremely hard."

Okocha, who twice won the African Footballer of the Year award, is urging the authorities to focus more on grassroots if they plan to return to the summit of African football.

"While we were busy celebrating past achievements, others have improved tremendously, so we need to look into the grassroots to develop talents," he said. - BBC

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