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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 February, 2004, 15:08 GMT
Honour restored

By Stephen Keshi
BBC Sport in Tunisia

Christian Chukwu
Chukwu did well in difficult circumstances
It was a great relief to see Nigeria end their Cup Of Nations campaign on an honourable note.

Considering all the problems the team had both before and during the tournament, it is a miracle that Nigeria performed as well as they did.

The lesson I feel needs to be learnt is that there is no substitute for good pre-tournament preparation.

There is also no substitute for managing tournament problems with a cool head, instead of resorting to knee-jerk measures.

The Nigeria FA also need to realise that better care must be taken of national team players, who seem to only get their attention when they are needed to fly from Europe for qualifying games and tournaments.

Before this competition, Julius Aghahowa was injured for close to six months, and no one from the NFA cared enough to enquire about his well-being until he was fit to play again.

That is a very bad attitude which must stop before it destroys the national team.

It is important that there are one or two officials designated to check up on them, and do whatever is required to keep them in good spirits whenever they have injuries or other personal problems.

This will give the players a good reason to be more committed to the national cause.

The 2006 World Cup qualifiers start soon and we are going to need them to have a chance of getting through.

On the bright side, we have several young players that can maintain the high standards that the football world expects from us.

But the big question is whether there will be managerial stability and administrative competence to build upon the positive points of this Cup of Nations campaign.

In spite of all the problems Nigeria went through at this championship, I think Christian Chukwu has done a fairly good job.

Marouane Chamakh
Morocco's Marouane Chamakh had a great tournament
Whether he stays in charge or leaves the manager's job is a matter for the NFA, but it should be noted that Nigerian football will not progress with the endless sacking and recruitment of coaches.

Talking about the competition as a whole, I must say that I have not been overly impressed with the standard of play.

I thought that the pace and intensity of games would be greater, with so many African footballers plying their trade in Europe. But I do not see them showing as much passion as we did in our day.

I think they are trying to avoid injuries so they can resume their club careers.

On the positive side though, there have been some brilliant youngsters at this tournament - Jawad Zairi and Marouane Chammakh of Morocco, Osaze Odemwingie and George Abbey of Nigeria and Joel Luphala of Zimbabwe.

Players like these are the future of the game in Africa.



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