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…..still believes Nigeria can make it to Morocco

Current coach of South African Premier league side Free State Stars, Tom Saintfiet, has expressed sadness at what he termed ‘the sorry state of the African champions’ at the back of the Super Eagles’ shocking lone goal defeat to Sudan at the weekend.

Saintfiet, who is a self-acclaimed disciple of Nigerian football, said he has followed the game in Nigeria for many years and that the country is better than to be struggling for qualification for an African Cup.

“I have always said it that there is only a handful of countries that have the potential to reach as far as the semi final of the World Cup. One of them is Nigeria, and it was such a shame seeing the superstars lose to a Sudan team that comprised all local players”. he said.

Saintfiet, who was appointed as Technical Director for the Nigerian federation in 2012 only to have his appointment quashed by a ministerial order claims to have maintained a close watch on the Nigerian football situation. “It is natural in me. I have studied Nigerian football for many years. I have unearthed more than 400 players from Nigeria playing in various leagues around the world - from top teams in top countries, to the smaller ones and I know Nigeria has the potential to do better than they are doing right now”, be said.

Asked whether the situation was irretrievable, Saintfiet, who has had a great start to his time at Free State Stars, leading the team to an enviable sixth place in the PSL log, said “No, not at all. It is not over for Nigeria yet. They need to win on Wednesday against Sudan and hope that South Africa will do the double over Congo”.

He did admit, though, that the situation with current coach Keshi was becoming difficult. “Something has to give. The guy (Keshi) has done well, winning the AFCON and guiding the nation to top 16 in the World Cup, but is that his limit? Can Nigeria do with someone fresh who can put some new ideas and new players into the squad? I think so. But when this change can happen, I can’t say”.

Asked pointedly if he was interested in being the guy to take over, Saintfiet laughed and said guardedly, “I am the head coach of a top club in South Africa. I am under contract, and no such approach has been made to me, so there is no point talking about it at the moment”.

Belgian Tom Saintfiet has vast experience in Africa, having managed Namibia, Ethiopia and Malawi, while also guiding Tanzanian team Young Africans to CECAFA Cup triumph in 2012.