As AFCON kicks off : Nigeria eyes trophy in Egypt
Stories by Ado Salisu
After missing out the last two editions of the Africa Cup of Nations since their triumph in 2013 in South Africa, the Super Eagles of Nigeria are back in the biggest theatre of African football for the 2019 edition.
If the words of the team manager, Gernot Rohr, are anything to go by, the Super Eagles are set to reenact their 2013 feat.
Nigeria who finished top of their qualifying group with four wins, a draw and a loss in their six matches have been drawn in Pool B alongside Guinea and debutants Madagascar and Burundi.
Rohr believes it will not be an easy group as it looks on paper and he spoke on his expectations and plans for the tournament that kicks off today.
According to the Nigerian coach, the Super Eagles had a fair draw.
“You don’t get to choose whether it’s a good draw or a bad draw. We have good teams in the group. The Guinean team is a very strong side technically and physically with very good players as well.
“Madagascar was a good surprise in the qualifiers and we can’t overlook them; Burundi are also here on merit having qualified ahead of teams like Gabon and so it will not be easy.
“Our goal remains to get out of this group. I think lot of teams can dream of winning the trophy.
“We have the experience from the FIFA World Cup but again, we have a young team. We were the youngest at the World Cup and probably; we will still be the youngest at the AFCON.
“We don’t have stars like in the past where Nigeria had the likes of Austin ‘Jay-Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, or Daniel Amokachi. We have to work with what we have and take a game at a time. I am hoping we can go far with this strategy. We have a young team and team work is our strength,” he said.
The Super Eagles’ coach likes the idea of an expanded Africa Cup of Nations, which now features 24 teams unlike the 16 in some of the previous editions.
“It is a good thing to have 24 teams. It is the trend now in the world with the FIFA World Cup and the Euros all expanded and we have to expand African football.
“It is good to see new countries with some new enthusiasm and the different kind of quality they can bring to the AFCON,” he suggested.
He said that part of the preparation of his team included the friendly matches that are being played.