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AFCON

After missing trophies in playing and coaching career, Peseiro says AFCON 2023 is his chance!

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Nigeria’s coach, Jose Peseiro has narrated his dream of creating a new golden generation of the Super Eagles.

If his dream at the Africa Cup of Nations in January is to be realised, Peseiro may outdo the semi-final target given him by his employers, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

In offering him a short-term contract renewal after the earlier one lapsed, the NFF expected the Portuguese to take the Super Eagles to the semi-finals, a position they had reached in 15 of their last 19 appearances in 33 editions.

Peseiro had a lengthy interview with Sky Sports, speaking on sundry issues including the Napoli treatment of Victor Osimhen and his own coaching career.

Peseiro remarked that he knew there would be challenges when he took over the Super Eagles – national team of a football-obsessed nation of over 200 million people.

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He spoke about challenges of the job. “The structure and organisation is not like in Europe.” Peseiro has agreed a reduction to his salary so that he could stay on for a tournament originally scheduled for this summer. “The players pushed me to stay because they believe we can win.”

The 63 year old coach has travelled wide, but major silverware has eluded him. This, he thinks, is the big opportunity. His Nigeria team will play in the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

“The main goal is to win the AFCON,” he says. “We will need to be at our maximum because we know that there is good opposition. There is Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana and Ivory Coast. But we believe we can do it. I believe. And the players believe.”

According to the report, Peseiro  is trying to build something but was forced to select a number of domestic-based players for friendlies against Mexico and Ecuador last year, a frustration as he tries to foster a sense of togetherness. Not easy when players are coming together from around the world.

“I tried to explain that if you do not come for the friendly matches we cannot improve. Never will you create that connection, not only on the pitch but off it, because the spirit is important. If you meet up more often, you can create that spirit that you need.”

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Osimhen has joined up with the squad in this international window, setting the example. But he is not alone. Nigeria’s depth is a point of difference with the other nations in Africa. “It is not easy for me to choose the strikers or the wingers,” laughs Peseiro.

Nottingham Forest’s Taiwo Awoniyi and Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho are in the squad. From Serie A, there is Milan’s Samuel Chukwueze and Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman. Victor Boniface is the leading scorer at Bayer Leverkusen, top of the Bundesliga.

But it is clear who is the star.

“When Osimhen goes to Nigeria, everybody wants to touch him or speak with him or wants a picture with him,” says Peseiro. “And not just in Nigeria. Everywhere.” In qualification for AFCON, he scored 10 goals – twice as many as anyone else for any other country.

“The only reason he did not score more was because he allowed his team-mates to take two penalties. My advice would be to take them! Other players would not allow that but if someone asks him to let them take a penalty, he allows it. He is a good guy.

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“He is a strong guy, a smart guy and an amazing player, defensively and offensively. He can do everything. He pressures the centre-backs, he pressures the line by running in behind. He can attack the ball in the air and on the ground. He is motivated, quick and strong.”

It is why Nigeria are dreaming of that first AFCON success in over a decade. “We can win it,” adds Peseiro. “The players know it. They come with the same energy, the same belief, to fight for the Super Eagles.” With Victor Osimhen around, anything is possible.

And there is no chance of his national team manager forgetting it.

Peseiro also narrated his career path.  A former second-tier striker in his native Portugal – “I did not play at a high level” – his coaching career took a turn after promotion to the top flight with Nacional. A job offer set him on a different trajectory.

‘I called Jose Mourinho’

“I was in Brazil scouting players when my old teacher Carlos Queiroz called me. He told me he was going to Real Madrid and wanted me as his assistant.” This was 2003, the summer that David Beckham joined the garlanded group that became known as Galacticos.

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“I did not decide immediately, I called Jose Mourinho because he was my friend. Remember that he had been an assistant at Barcelona. I asked him what he thought because I was already a head coach. He told me, ‘Go. Because you can learn a lot there’.”

Suddenly, Peseiro was taking sessions with Raul, Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo, with Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo. “Until then, I was afraid. Never before had I shared a dressing room with big players. But it was not difficult because they are so smart. It was fantastic.”

The experience lasted only one season. “We had 11 good players and then the others.” The experiment of blending superstars with academy prospects – and selling the unheralded Claude Makelele – became an example of why great teams beats great individuals.

Peseiro has taken those learnings into a varied career that has seen him lead Sporting to the UEFA Cup final in 2005 before working in Greece and Romania. He has been in charge at Porto and head coach of the Venezuela national team. “You have to adapt,” he says.

“The Ajax team of the 1970s are still my main reference, their mobility in attack, their control of the ball. From this, I created my model. But the game has changed a lot. Arrigo Sacchi reduced the pitch to 40 or 50 metres and it reduced the space.

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“The challenge is to find that space so players can show their skills, that is what people want to see. But the modern game is a game of transition. That is what decides the best teams because it is easier to train attacking and defensive organisation than the transitions.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

AFCON

Nigeria’s AFCON 2025 fixtures almost in same pattern with World Cup qualifiers

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Confederation of African Football (CAF)  has now released the full fixtures of the qualifying series for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations.

The fixtures for the Nigerian team is almost in the same pattern with that of the 2026 World Cup qualification which has seen the Super Eagles wobbling.

Like that of the World Cup, the Super Eagles will begin their quest for qualifcation for AFCON with a home game in Uyo as they will host Benin Republic.

As it was in the World Cup, they will then head to Rwanda. Last November, their second match was played in Rwanda which hosted Zimbabwe home match. This time the Super Eagles will be facing Rwanda, the same team they will meet when the World Cup qualification series resume in March next year.

On Match Day 3, the Super Eagles will host Libya and will have the reverse fixture immediately after that of Match Day 3.

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Later they travel to Benin for Match Day 5 before hosting Rwanda on the last match day.

The Fixtures

  • September 2 – Nigeria vs Benin Republic; Libya vs Rwanda
  • September 6 – Rwanda vs Nigeria; Benin Republic vs Libya
  • October 11 – Nigeria vs Libya; Benin Republic vs Rwanda
  • October 16 – Libya vs Nigeria; Rwanda vs Benin Republic
  • November 11 – Benin Republic vs Nigeria; Rwanda vs Libya
  • November 15 – Nigeria vs Rwanda; Libya vs Benin Republic

The top two teams qualify for AFCON 2025

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AFCON

Rohr roars warning to Benin; Nigeria, Rwanda will not be easy

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Former Nigeria manager, Gernot Rohr now handling Benin Republic has warned The Cheetahs of Benin not to expect an easy match when the team meet Rwanda and Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers later this month.

 Last month, he led his team to defeat both Rwanda and Nigeria in World Cup qualifying duels in Abidjan, where Benin Republic are compelled to play their home matches following inadequate facilities at home.

 Benin’s 1-0 defeat of Rwanda was Rohr’s first victory with the team. Days later, he followed up with a 2-1 defeat of Nigeria, the first Benin Republic victory in over 65 years.

 Those wins have put Benin in the frame of possible qualification for the World Cup. They are now to meet Nigeria and Rwanda again in World Cup qualifiers.

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 It won’t be easy, remarked Rohr.  Hear the Franco-German as he spoke in French but translated into English for the Sports Village Square: “From September we will play against Nigeria before facing Libya and Rwanda.  

“These are three difficult opponents.  We had already played Rwanda and Nigeria but be careful, it’s not because we won Rwanda and Nigeria that it will be easy matches.

“ We know that it is possible to achieve good performances again.  We know that Nigeria with its great players will want to take revenge against us.

“ I think it will probably be an interesting match in Uyo before continuing against Libya.  I suppose in Abidjan because in September the Mathieu Kerekou friendship stadium  will not be ready.  

“Everything will be decided in three months in September, October and November.  It’s a difficult group but it’s playable.  

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“You have to finish in the top two.  We had a team that is becoming solid, where the players are like brothers, accomplices.  I hope we will recover the players who were absent.  We are confident.”

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AFCON

Coaches react after intriguing Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers Draw

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The journey towards qualification to the  Africa Cup of Nations Morocco 2025 shifted a gear higher on Thursday, after CAF officially conducted the draw of the qualifiers in Johannesburg South Africa.

A total of 48 nations will vie for the 24 places that will contests the 35th edition of Africa’s most prestigious competition.

This is what some of the coaches has to say in reaction to the draw outcomes.

Emerse Fae, Cote d’Ivoire coach

“I am satisfied because we are going to play against Zambia, a team that we know very well. In our last qualifying campaign, we lost against them. We know what mistakes to avoid.

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“I am also satisfied because I did not want to have countries geographically far from Cote d’Ivoire which will lessen the travel load. That said, in Africa, there are no longer small teams. All the teams will want to challenge us because we are the reigning champions”

Leslie Notši

“The draw is very interesting because when you have the host in your group, it means they qualify automatically for the tournament, and you have to double your efforts to secure the remaining qualification spot which will be contested by the three other teams in the group.

“We will work very hard to see to it that we are competitive side and try as much as we can to get maximum points in matches against countries that are with us in our group. It will be very important to do well in our home games and I know all eyes will be on “Morocco as the hosts and a powerhouse in our group. We will draw inspiration from recent games where we played the likes of Nigeria as well as Cote d’voire and were able to frustrate them”

Amir Abdou, Mauritania Coach

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“Quite a complicated draw. Egypt will be the big contender for qualification. They have a good track record that speaks volumes.

“Seven times African champions – that’s no small thing. We also have Cape Verde who eliminated us during the last AFCON.

“This team is made up of many quality players. We have Botswana, they are having a good qualifying campaign for the World Cup. We have a pretty strong group. It’s up to us to believe in ourselves. We will do everything we can to achieve our fourth participation in the AFCON”.

Kévin Nicaise, Chad coach

 “We are already having the reigning African champions facing the last qualified team in the FIFA rankings. These will definitely be very difficult matches played at high intensity. We will fight to defend our nation’s pride. The group remains relatively open, and we will approach these qualifications with humility and ambition”.

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 Badou Zaki, Niger coach

“We have every chance of qualifying. For me, Ghana is a football country with a team that is blessed with great professionals. But this is not the team of 5 or 6 years ago. Even at home, they can lose.

“Angola had a good showing at the last AFCON with their beautiful, modern and fast football. It’s a team that shook up the big teams in Cote d’Ivoire.

“I know Sudan very well. They are first in their World Cup qualifying group. They are going to be dangerous, but we know our strengths and we know we can go far”

-CAF

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