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AFCON

‘Let’s do it again’ – Super Eagles on cusp of AFCON glory

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BY DANLADI BAKO

The African Cup of Nations is upon us again, this time Cote d’Ivoire, two time winners are the hosts. Nigeria is gearing up to browbeat it’s was into the final and probably win the trophy not because of the strength of its preparation, quality friendly matches, pedigree of coaching crew but more because of the providence nature bestowed on us as a country by having a few top class players in the mould of Victor Osimhen and the rave of the German League Victor Boniface of Bayer Leverkusen.

 

But winning the African Cup of Nations or indeed  major football tournaments go beyond the quality of players and coaches, it also tasks each country’s football administration cascading from the Sports Minister, his drive, personality, charisma, and his hold at the presidents office  down to the aura of the Football Federation President to the tactical depth of the coaching crew and very importantly the commitment, passion, grit, energy technical ability and discipline of the players individually and collectively.

Another major factor in winning tournaments is the quality of the opposition. Today in Africa, the reigning champions are Senegal and also FIFA rankings put them ahead of Nigeria. Morocco is another country tipped to excel due to the sterling performance at Qatar 2022 World Cup where they got to the semi-final.

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The host country Cote d’Ivoire is a contender simply because they have a legendary youth football culture spewing up such great legends of the past like Didier Drogba , Yaya Toure Omar Ben Sallah and Abdullahi Traore.

Among the contenders for every edition are six time winners Egypt. Not only have they entrenched a solid home-based club football culture, they have the best club-sides on the continent in Al Ahli, former Ahli National and Zamalek football club.

They have midwifed  generations of legends like goalkeeper Ekramy Ahmad El-Shahat, Hossam Hussain and today One of Africa’s greatest export to the English Premier league, Mohamed Salah of Liverpool.

One cannot but also mention Algeria and  Riyad Mahrez, South Africa and Percy Tau, three time winners  Cameroon and Andre Onana along with Chuppa-Mouting of Bayern Munich.

Even with all these great players , no country is guaranteed of excelling without the tactical prowess of it’s coaches.

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Here we are talking about the formation and style of play of the team. Gehnot Rohr when he was Eagles gaffer was accused of not being offensive enough in the teams play.

Peseiro has also been criticized for a weak defence and choice of sloppy, error-prone goalkeepers like Uzoho.

But with the abundance of talent we have today , how do we evolve a team that defends well , enforce a good defensive midfield wall and even without the mercurial skills of Jay Jay Okocha create defense splitting passes to feed Osimhen and Boniface.

For want of designing a winning team and strategy together with the coaching crew, I might suggest Nwabili of Chippa United in goal because the South African league tests you enough especially as a first team goalkeeper.

 

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African Cup of Nations football is gritty, rough, and rigorous. Not sure Uzoho is that tough and rugged or if he can maintain  optimal concentration throughout ninety minutes of African weather.

 

Ola Aina, Trust Ekong , Semi Ajayi and Zaid Sanusi hopefully are experienced and will do a good back four for me. Ndidi sits in front of the back four while Iwobi and Kelechi play as 8 and 10.

 

Of course the three attackers will be Chukwueze of AC Milan , Boniface of Leverkusen and African Footballer of the year Victor Osimhen leads the attack.

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Tactically, the definitive transition from defence to attack is not only extremely key it is imperative and on the field of play, Ndidi and “senior man” Iheanacho must assume leadership on the pitch and service the attackers.

 

Having attended 12 AFCON tournaments and six FIFA World Cups between Spain ’82 and South Africa 2010,  I guess one have acquired an intuition and sixth sense  that guides one towards who are likely winners , contenders and the  pretenders to the title.

 

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I dare say countries like Cameroon , Cape Verde and Ghana might  likely be surprise packages of the tournament despite not being top notch during qualifiers.

 

As a note of caution, I was in Cote d’Ivoire in 1984 when Super Eagles boasted of the likes of Stephen Keshi, Patrick Okala, Muda Lawal, Henry Nwosu and Cameroon knocked us out in the final with a star -studded team of Thomas  Nkono, Stephen Tawtaw, Djonkep Bonaventure and Doumbe Lea.

 

We were overpowered by their stars. The reverse is the case today.  We have the stars like Victor Osimhen and Wilfred Ndidi.

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Can we overwhelm Morocco, Egypt, Senegal and the hosts Cote d’ Ivoire?

 

Are dollar issues and greed of officials going to affect and distract the team?

 

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Is there luck associated with Presidents and Sports Ministers in our favour during tournaments?

 

In less than 14 days the games will begin in Abidjan then the real challenge will start. I dare say the success or failure of the Super Eagles will depend on not  only the technical and tactical strategies on the pitch but the diplomacy, the politics, the administration  and the positivity of all Nigerians to the team.

 

As we move to battle I love the new jerseys but the players must know that wearing that jersey means they carry the hopes, dreams and pride of 200 million Nigerians. One can only admonish them and  say to them “Fly Super Eagles, fly”.

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Dr Danladi Bako attended  six FIFA World Cup and 12 AFCON Tournaments and was Chairman Sokoto State Football Association 2000 – 2003.

 

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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