Shaibu Amodu has rubbished suggestions that some of the players he selected in the Nigeria squad for the African Nations Cup are not in the team on merit.
The Super Eagles boss was quizzed about his selection policy in Durban, where the team are holding a training camp ahead of the three-week competition that begins in Angola on Sunday. But he insists that all 23-players have earned their slots.
''What I have chosen for Nigeria is the best squad capable of bringing the cup back home,'' he said. ''Any player who finds his name in the squad got there by merit.''
The west Africans kick off their campaign against six-time winners and defending champions Egypt next Tuesday and Amodu is targeting nothing less than a win.
''That match will go a long way in putting things right for us,'' he continued. ''The Egyptians, as defending champions, will come out smoking but we will match them grit for grit.''
The Pharaohs are extremely depleted, though, with their squad minus a host of key players, the most noteworthy being injured playmaker Mohamed Aboutrika.
Amodu added: ''My optimism is not based on their injured players, but injury is part of the game and I feel sorry for them. With or without Mohamed Aboutrika and other injured players, I have a squad that can cause upsets and go all the way to the final. I have raised the confidence of the team and they are equal to the task ahead.''
Striker Victor Obinna sees Nigeria as favourites for the tournament. The Malaga frontman, who is on loan at the Spanish club from Internazionale, will be going to his his third continental showpiece, but this time around is set to play his biggest role yet.
Experienced duo Aiyegbeni Yakubu and Obafemi Martins are just returning from injury meaning the 22-year-old is likely to feature more heavily in coach Shaibu Amodu's plans.
''We are always favourites to win any Nations Cup and this year's edition will not be an exception,'' he told Nigeria's Daily Sun. ''We are a top football nation in Africa and have many players with experience at the top level from playing in Europe.
''We are all doing our best here as we prepare for the task in Angola, the atmosphere is good and we are all in high spirit ready to make the nation and ourselves proud.
''We are all aware that Nigerians want us to win, but we want it more than anybody, we will put in our best in all the matches we will play at the Nations Cup. We are determined for a successful outing.''