Former Super Eagles midfielder, Sylvanus Okpala, has declared his interest and availability to lead the Super Eagles of Nigeria, noting that he is best positioned to lead the team.

Okpala, who won the AFCON title in 1980 as a player and as an assistant coach in 2013, said this in a recent interview.

Last Friday, Portuguese manager, Jose Peseiro, confirmed his exit as coach of the Super Eagles after his contract officially expired.

Peseiro, who guided the Eagles to a second-place finish at the 2023 African Cup of Nations, said he was fulfilled coaching Nigeria.

However, Okpala, while commending Peseiro for his efforts as the Nigerian head coach, noted that it was high time the Nigerian coaching job was brought home.

Okpala said, “The only thing I can say about Peseiro is that he has tried his best, but the game goes on.”

When asked about a possible replacement, he said, “I’m one of those that should replace him. For the fact that we have been in this issue of getting to quarter-finals, semi-finals, that is a wrong way of employing a coach.

“I mean, whenever Nigeria is going to the Nations Cup, we are going there to win, but it is not a must you must win. But we must present a team to win and not just participate.”

“Our players are abroad based players, and most of them are playing against each other, either in the Italian league or so on, so they get the same training, so when we are going to the World Cup, we should be thinking about winning the World Cup. We might not qualify from the group stage, but we must go there with the mindset to win.”

He noted that Nigeria must do all it can to qualify for the World Cup. “To qualify now for World Cup is going to be very difficult, difficult in the sense that we are in the same group with South Africa, so we must be very careful. And if Nigeria does not qualify for another World Cup, there will be a lot of crisis in Nigerian football.”

The 1980 AFCON winner noted that there needs to be a bar raised by the Nigerian team, which he believes has all the potential to win the World Cup.

“Getting to the semifinals of the World Cup is no longer news in Africa because Morrocco has gotten to the semifinals in the last World Cup. I think Africa should be talking about winning the World Cup. It is the same football; the difference is the mentality,” he added.

Okpala, while saying that the tactics of the ex-Super Eagles coach weren’t bad, said, “Peseiro is a good coach; he’s not bad. I think the problem with him is that when you’re thinking about what to play, you must also think about what the other team will play and make sure that you stop them from playing what they’re supposed to play and play what you’re supposed to play. But I think he was so much on what he was going to play. What if the other team overwhelms your team? What do you do?” he asked.

Speaking on the vacant Super Eagles managerial position, he further noted that knowledge and experience should be considered for whoever is selected, adding that he qualifies for both.

“I’ve won the Nations Cup as a player, and I have won it as an assistant coach to Keshi, the record is there. It is not easy. It’s not by luck or mathematics, it’s by knowledge.

“The team we went to South Africa with, you can’t compare them with these boys. We went there with home-based boys, playing in the Nigerian league. It was only Mikel (Obi), even Mikel wasn’t a regular player in Chelsea then when he came with us. Then Amunike, and I think Musa too.

“We had only about only one year with the boys then, but this team has spent over 2 years together. We have players that can win the World Cup.”

He further noted that although Nigeria in 2013 wasn’t the favourite to win as opposed to Ivory Coast, who had “one of the best ever African teams,” they were able to prove them wrong.

When asked if he was best positioned to lead Nigeria, Okpala said, “Yes, if I am given a chance.”

He noted that back in the 2013 feat, the NFF had already bought the flight tickets to return the Super Eagles back home when they were to play Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals, but the team didn’t give up. According to him, “We sat down and planned a strategy and that strategy worked.”

“So yes, if I am given a chance, I will do wonders with these boys,” he noted.

He, however, noted that even if he wasn’t made the head coach, he could be brought in to bring his expertise and experience to the team, saying that “coaches are born, not made.”

“I’m very good at reading games, and that gives me an advantage too,” he added.

The Nigeria Football Federation will be tasked with choosing a successor to Peseiro after he penned a farewell message to Nigerians following the expiration of his contract as coach of the Super Eagles.