INSIDE AFCON 2019: Staying in Italy Has Improved My Game – Ola Aina (AUDIO)

ALEXANDRIA – Versatility can be both a gift and a curse for footballers whose ability to play numerous positions often mean that they struggle to hold down a particular position but for Super Eagles player Ola Aina, being able to play on either flank in the full-back positions has been a blessing.

The utility player, who can also play in defensive midfield and has filled in at right and left back for the Super Eagles, is currently enjoying a spell at left back at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt after first choice left back Jamilu Collins pulled up injured before Nigeria’s opening game against Burundi.

And Aina who narrowly missed out on the Super Eagles squad to the 2018 World Cup in Russia might just have made the left back slot his own following his performances in Nigeria’s two group games.

He provided a wonderful assist for Ighalo’s winner against Burundi on Saturday before putting up a solid showing in the 1-0 win over Burundi on Wednesday and the player, who recently completed a permanent move to Torino after spending last season on loan with the Italian side told that his time at the Turin club has helped him improve as a player and that he feels at home on either flank in the defence.

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“Left side, right side for me it’s all the same. I feel comfortable playing on the left just as much as I do on the right,” the 22-year-old said.

“Of course, last season going to Italy has helped me and I really enjoyed it and I feel like I have improved and there is still more to improve on of course, because I don’t feel like I’m the finished product yet but I’m enjoying my football a lot and I’m enjoying this team in particular because we really like each other’s company [and] we put in on the pitch for each other so it’s really good.”

Aina is one of twenty players in the present Super Eagles squad appearing at a Nations Cup for the very first time, indeed, Nigeria’s team to the 32nd AFCON in Egypt is the joint third youngest with an average age of 28.4 years (as at 11 June 2019).

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But despite the glaring inexperience in the side, the Super Eagles became the first team to secure qualification to the Round of 16 with a 1-0 defeat of Guinea on Wednesday and the former Chelsea of England player says the team has been able to perform better than their experience level would suggest due to the confidence they have in themselves.

“I think first of all it’s the confidence,” Aina said about the team’s performances in Egypt where they are yet to concede in their two matches.

“I think the team has a lot of confidence within each other and I think as we grow more into the tournament, hopefully, that confidence will remain.”

The versatile defender also added that the Super Eagles are capable of winning the AFCON for a fourth time but must have to work hard and stick together to achieve that goal.

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“I think with the hard work and the determination that we have I think we will be able to achieve what we want to achieve,” he said about the team’s chances of leaving Egypt with the trophy.

“It’s hard work we know this already, its hard work and we have to stay together at all times to achieve this, so, as long as we do those things then we should be fine.”