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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 January 2008, 23:18 GMT
Sunday Oliseh on Nigeria
Former Nigeria captain Sunday Oliseh
By Sunday Oliseh
Former Nigeria captain and BBC TV pundit

I know how significant it would have been failing to qualify for the quarter-finals at the Africa Cup of Nations, especially as we didn't qualify for the World Cup two years ago.

It was more than important. After the game you could see the players together rejoicing and jumping around because it was such a relief for them.

I'm not sure the victory will be a spark for Nigeria to go on and win the tournament, but I hope it will be.

Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel
I think Mikel has to learn to be more imposing in the team

Sunday Oliseh

We are playing our eternal rivals, Ghana, in the next round and this game could yet ignite the team. What will certainly help is if the players could remove the pressure of history from their heads.

They have a problem dealing with the past glories of the national team. The heights that my generation scaled are very hard to replicate. We won the Nations Cup, we reached another final and we dominated African football.

They have to realise they have to write their own story and forget about the past.

The national team is also lacking a real leader to push them on, the way you see Didier Drogba for Ivory Coast or Michael Essien for Ghana. Every team has to have one and luckily we saw John Obi Mikel do some of that against Benin. I just hope he can continue.

I was younger than him when I became a leader for the national team.

606: DEBATE
Alistair M - BBC Sport

Leadership is something which people are either born with or have to learn. I think Mikel has to learn to be more imposing in the team.

Whether this victory saved Berti Vogts I don't know - that will be down to what happens in the Ghana game because if we don't get a good result against the Black Stars it will still be seen as a negative tournament.

It would be the first time since 1982 that we didn't make it as far as the semi-finals.

Nigeria is a very special country. We are the most populated African nation in the world with 130 million people so it's normal that you are under pressure as the coach of the national team.

Former Nigeria captain Sunday Oliseh
Former Nigeria captain Sunday Oliseh won the Nations Cup in 1994

In 1994 before we played the Nations Cup which we won in Tunisia, I was a young up-and-coming player when we played Ghana in our last friendly before the tournament.

I played so well that people said, 'if he can play like that against Ghana he doesn't have a problem any more. He must be a regular'. That tells you how big this game is against Ghana on Sunday.

Much of the match is down to the coach to make it clear to the players there is no pressure. Vogts has more psychological work to do because it is too late to start talking about tactics now.

It's going to be difficult because Ghana were pretty impressive on Monday against Morocco. I was very impressed with Essien who seemed to cover every part of the pitch and he really showed why he is Africa's player of the moment.

But there are two kinds of players: there are those who go out on the pitch and don't play well because they are afraid of what might happen if they lose.

And then there is the type of player who says: 'Finally, this is the time to show people how good I am.' I hope my countrymen will think of the second option.

Sunday Oliseh was talking to Alistair Magowan

SEE ALSO
Nigeria thankful after 'miracle'
29 Jan 08 |  Africa Cup of Nations
Nigeria 2-0 Benin
29 Jan 08 |  Africa Cup of Nations
Vogts to consider Nigeria future
28 Jan 08 |  Africa Cup of Nations
2008 Cup of Nations qualifying
20 Oct 07 |  Africa Cup of Nations


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