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Page last updated at 14:14 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Okocha issues Nigeria warning

By Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

Jay-Jay Okocha
Okocha was captain of the Super Eagles when they missed out

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 2010 World and Nations Cup qualifying.

They begin the final stage away to Mozambique this weekend.

Okocha was captain when Nigeria missed out of 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.

"They should be taken seriously by the Super Eagles, who 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 the Palancas Negras of Angola.

"We must learn from past mistakes," Okocha said.

"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 that we are 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 BBC 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.

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see also
2010 World Cup tables
13 Nov 08 |  African
Theft will not stop Nigeria game
20 Mar 09 |  African
Yobo to miss Mozambique clash
20 Mar 09 |  African

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