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The former Super Eagles striker believes that the national team can exceed expectations by making it out of the first round at the World Cup next year

EXCLUSIVE
By Peter Davis

Guangzhou R&F striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni is confident in the Super Eagles' chances of not just qualifying but getting past the group stages of the 2014 World Cup.

“Nigeria will surely qualify for the World Cup and get to at least the second round in Brazil.

“Winning the African Nations Cup, Stephen Keshi is doing very well with the national team,” the 30 year old said.

The Super Eagles hold a 2-1 advantage after a first leg victory over Ethiopia where Emmanuel Emenike bagged an invaluable brace.

With Nigeria’s attention on international success, Yakubu looks back on a successful season in the Chinese Super League which saw his Canton club appoint former England and Lazio boss Sven Goran-Eriksson as manager.

The two crossed paths before at Leicester City and Yakubu has seen a huge transformation since the Swede’s arrival.

“Sven brings confidence to the team and a European standard of coaching.

“We are training like we would in England. The clubs training is much better than before and the team loves the sessions with him,” he said.

Since Sven took over from 45 year old Brazilian Sergio Farias at the helm of the Guangzhou club there has been a definite change in mood at the club but Yakubu identifies other areas where R&F have improved.

Defensively, R&F improved with the signing of Australian former Shmizu S-Pulse and JEF united centre back Eddy Bosnar on a short term deal, a move which Yakubu saw as highly important.

“Eddy is a very good player. He came in and made the team solid, brought confidence to the team and now there is no more conceding silly goals, the defense is now very solid,” he said.

Yakubu also reserves some praise for 23 year old former Beijing Guoan youth player, Tang Miao who broke into the R&F first team last season.

“At Guangzhou R&F, the young number 20 Tang Miao would fit in really well in Europe,” he said when asked who he has been impressed by in the 2013 CSL season."

With Yakubu due to be at R&F in 2014, what then are the aims of his club, who sit very much in the shadow of Chinese Super League winners Guangzhou Evergrande.

“Evergrande are one of the best teams in the Chinese League,” he said.

“Our main focus is to finish in the top three of the CSL and qualify for the Asian Champions League, that's our main target for the next season.”

The CSL is now in the off season until 2014 and Yakubu will be a keen observer of the fortunes of Nigeria and firmly motivated on more China goals in the new year.

Beijing-based Peter Davis has followed Chinese football since 2008 and is a regular contributor to Wild East Football. Follow him on Twitter at @peteydavis

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