Super Eagles swoop on 4th AFCON crown – Score Nigeria
Three years ago, the Super Eagles, made up of all but two debutants, finished third at the AFCON in Egypt.
It will now be a huge disappointment should the same team fail to win a fourth continental crown in Cameroon.
Even though Nigeria have won this tournament thrice – 1980, 1994 and 2013 – they are still regarded as one of the biggest underachievers in Africa given the talent that abound in the country.
Defending champions Algeria, star-studded Senegal, record winners Egypt as well as hosts Cameroon are among the favourites to lift this trophy on February 6 in Yaounde.
The last time Nigeria won the AFCON – nine years ago in South Africa – they were not one of the favourites, but coach Stephen Keshi took a team with as many as six players from the domestic league to go all the way to the top.
Victor Moses (right), Joseph Yobo flew high when the Super Eagles won 2013 AFCON.
For this delayed competition, the Eagles build-up has been most chaotic – from a long-drawn drama that led to the eventual sack of coach Gernot Rohr to the late arrival in camp of the bulk of the call-ups.
The three-time African champions will be without several key players in Cameroon, notably Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, defender Leon Balogun and midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo.
Osimhen was the team’s top scorer in the qualifying tournament with five goals and he has been on top form for Napoli until his unfortunate injury in November, which partly caused him to miss out on his second AFCON.
Both Balogun and Etebo have been dependable stalwarts in the five years Rohr was in charge of the team.
Osimhen out of AFCON
Caretaker coach Augustine Eguavoen certainly has his work cut out, but he was the sensible choice to lead the team under the circumstances.
‘Cerezo’ favours a fast-tempo attacking style, which relies on wing play that Nigeria have long been known for.
He has so far been a cool head in the storm and his experience, which includes heading the team at the 2006 AFCON, will most likely be tested at this tournament.
The Super Eagles themselves have been bullish about their chances in Cameroon.
FC Nantes winger Moses Simon said he wishes to win his first trophy with the national team.
“We all know why we are at the AFCON. I want to win the trophy as a player,” he said.
“We came close at the last edition, but we were unlucky, but with collective effort now we can make it happen.
“All we need to do is to work for one another on the pitch, follow the instructions of the coaches and not be carried away after any victory.”
Super Eagles third best at 2019 AFCON
“At the last AFCON, we came back with a bronze, but we want the gold this time around,” added Turkey-based defender Chidozie Awaziem.
“We will give our best to make sure we get the gold in Cameroon.”
Former international striker Brown Ideye won a winners’ medal at the 2013 AFCON and he recalled the Eagles were not given a chance to do so.
“In 2013, a lot of Nigerians never gave us a chance to win the tournament, but we believed in ourselves, we overcame big obstacles to eventually win,” he recounted.
“I don’t believe these Eagles can’t do it.
“They have been playing together for over four years and this shows the preparation has been going on.”
How the Eagles fare at the AFCON could make or mar their qualification for this year’s World Cup in Qatar.
They face a final playoff in March with the overall winners over two legs marching on to the World Cup in November.
Source: Score Nigeria
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