“They’ve done so well, I must give them credit. I know as well that nobody gave them a chance from the beginning after they lost those games and stuff like that, but they fought."
DANIEL Akpeyi, who said that Nigeria needed it more, felt bad for his Kaizer Chiefs teammates who watched from the bench as Bafana Bafana were eliminated by his countrymen in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
The Amakhosi goalkeeper watched on, without being tested, as the Super Eagles soared above Bafana with a 2-1 win that took them to the semi-finals.
After the match Akpeyi (pictured) exchanged pleasantries with Bruce Bvuma, Ramahlwe Mphahlele and Daniel Cardoso who he will meet at Naturena for pre-season. But while the trio returned home, Akpeyi and his Super Eagles are preparing for their semi-final on Sunday night at Cairo International Stadium.
“It’s we needed it more,” Akpeyi said. “They’ve done so well, I must give them credit. I know as well that nobody gave them a chance from the beginning after they lost those games and stuff like that, but they fought.
“They were part of the team which means that they are doing well. Kaizer Chiefs is generally doing well, for them to have a representative in Bafana shows that.”
The 32-year-old goalkeeper who has spent four years in South Africa, first at Chippa United and then at Chiefs, said that there was no need for him to give his countrymen tips on Bafana as they did enough homework on the South African team that knocked out Egypt.
That was evident in how Nigeria played. They didn’t mind giving Bafana the ball, they were compact in their defence to frustrate South Africa and then hit them on the counter.
“We are the better team, regardless of what happened,” Akpeyi said. “Without any disrespect or taking anything away from Bafana Bafana, we are the better team. But we were also prepared for the worst. There’s nothing special that I told the players. We just watched the videos, watched their players and we capitalised on what we thought was their weak point.”
Gernot Rohr has kept faith in Akpeyi to lead the Super Eagles at the back, reclaiming the No 1 jersey he had lost due to his poor form in the domestic league.
“Am I really struggling for the No 1 jersey? I don’t think so,” Akpeyi said. “I am only making the most of every opportunity I am given to play each and every game. I am really grateful to Gernot Rohr that against all odds, against all the media trying to pull me down and stuff like that he still gave me a chance to stay between the sticks. I am not really looking at being No 1, I am just looking at making the most of the opportunity team I get to play.”
Nigeria’s road to the final is tough. They have met former champions in every step, from the Last 16 against Cameroon to the quarter-finals against South Africa and that will continue in the semi-finals.
If they go on to win the trophy, they will have deserved it