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Super Eagles Set To Play For Glory And Gold! –

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Super Eagles Set To Play For Glory And Gold! -

Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea will conclude the first matches of Group A of the 34th Africa Cup of Nations ongoing in Cote d’Ivoire when both nations clash at the brand-new Stade Alassane Ouattare in Ebimpe, outside Abidjan, on Sunday.

 

Matches between both nations have been few and far between, but Nigerians continue to relish a double over the neighbours to the south in qualification matches for the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals, when Joseph Yobo scored the only goal of the encounter in Malabo, and the Eagles then soared to a 2-0 win at the MKO Abiola National Stadium in Abuja.

 

On Saturday, Nigeria captain Ahmed Musa told thenff.com after the pre-match press conference that the Super Eagles have their eyes on the three points and have no apologies for their aspiration.

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“It is always interesting to play in the Africa Cup of Nations. I was a champion in 2013, same as (defender Kenneth) Omeruo. However, the rest of the team want to have that feeling of what it means to win the Africa Cup of Nations. Everyone is geared towards making a statement.

 

“It is not going to be a picnic. The teams in our group, including Equatorial Guinea that we play tomorrow, are strong and ambitious as well. It is for us to go all out for the three points in each of our games, and then take it from there in the knock-out rounds. We will take it one match at a time.”

 

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Nigeria’s campaign is woven around the aphoristic ‘Let’s Do It Again’ mantra, which was launched moments after their qualification for the finals, and is designed to galvanise and motivate the group to repeat the triumphs of 1980, 1994 and 2013, and also mobilise football-passionate Nigerians to support and encourage the group to action.

 

This year’s final tournament is Nigeria’s 20th appearance, having made her debut in 1963, and then appeared at the 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2019 and 2021 finals.

 

The competition is also holding in the country where Nigeria reached the Final on away ground for the first time, losing to an experienced and battle-hardened Indomitable Lions of Cameroon at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in the Ivorian capital.

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Nigeria remains the country with the most podium appearances at the Africa Cup of Nations, having in addition to wins in 1980, 1994 and 2013, finished as runners-up in 1984, 1988, 1990 and 2000, and picked up the bronze medals in 1976, 1978, 1992, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2019, making for a total of 15 podium appearances in 20 finals.

 

Commentators continue to fret about a contention of lack of steel in midfield and perceived weakness in sectors of the defence, but Coach José Peseiro was bullish at the pre-match press conference on Saturday.

 

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“I believe in my team. Every team has what you may call frail areas, but the important thing is for the players to play for one another. We are positive.”

 

Afterwards, he told thenff.com: “It is a 90-minute affair and it is always about who wants a win most. I have a group that has determination and discipline, flair and steel, and we believe we can go all the way in this tournament.”

 

Equatorial Guinea’s senior national team is known as Nzalang Nationale (National Thunder), but Musa said the Super Eagles will fly above any thunder strikes or claps the neighbours-to-the-south may be planning for Sunday.

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“We are ready. This is a group that loves to compete, and we will give this match, and this competition generally, our very best.”

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.

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AFCON

African champions Cote d’Ivoire ring changes with new backroom staff

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Emerse Fae during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations semifinal with DR Congo

Cote d’Ivoire head coach Emerse Fae has overhauled his backroom team following the Elephants’ Africa Cup of Nations, Cote d’Ivoire 2023, success earlier this year.

Fae, who took over from Frenchman Jean-Louis Gasset during the tournament in January, has brought in three new faces as he builds towards qualifying for the 2025 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations and 2026 World Cup.

Former Cote d’Ivoire goalkeeper Gerard Gnahouan, 45, joins as goalkeeping coach after working in this role with French Ligue 2 side Sochaux.

Gnahouan, capped 10 times by the Elephants between 2002 and 2011, takes over as goalkeeping coach and will be tasked with getting the best out of first-choice Yahia Fofana.  

Moroccan Samir Anba, previously with French club Nice and Morocco’s Under-17s, takes over as fitness coach, while Jeremy Antonio arrives as video analyst after working with Fae at French side Clermont.

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“This new composition of the technical staff marks the start of a new era for the Cote d’Ivoire national team, and expectations are high,” said Fae.

Fae kept faith with assistant Guy Demel while former international Alain Gouamene joins as the second assistant coach of the AFCON-winning team.

The 40-year-old led an all-local setup to a surprise African title in March after being promoted from Gasset’s number two following their near exit at the group stage.

The new backroom additions have a huge challenge ahead, with Cote d’Ivoire facing crunch matches in June as they bid to qualify for the 2026 World Cup.

The Elephants top their qualifying group after beating Gambia and Seychelles in the opening two matches  in Group F of the qualifiers under caretaker Gasset.

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-CAF

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Liberia, Eswatini hold upper hand in AFCON 2025 preliminary qualifiers –

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Liberia, Eswatini Hold Upper Hand In AFCON 2025 Preliminary Qualifiers -

After commanding victories in the first leg matches of the Africa Cup of Nations, Morocco 2025, qualifiers, Chad, Liberia, and Eswatini find themselves in advantageous positions as they gear up for the return fixtures scheduled for Tuesday.

As the second leg of the preliminary fixtures approach, all eyes will be on these teams as they vie for their coveted spots in the group phase of the qualifiers, with the hopes of making their mark on the continental stage.

Chad emerged victorious with a narrow 1-0 win over Mauritius, joining Liberia and Eswatini in the lead after their impressive triumphs earlier last week.

Liberia secured a 2-0 victory against Djibouti, while Eswatini displayed their dominance with a 3-0 win over Somalia.

The second leg promises to be fiercely contested, particularly for Chad, who will face a challenging encounter against Mauritius on the latter’s home turf.

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Coach Kevin Nicaise’s players are keen to defend their slender lead and secure their spot in the next phase of the qualifiers but the trainer admits they have an arduous task.

“We are far from perfect, far from being a top team in the world. We are in the construction phase. There are still things to work on and improve,” coach Nicaise said after their first-leg win.

“It is not overnight that we will be a top team in the world, we are aware of that, however we are working hard with the group and the staff to achieve this goal.”

Meanwhile, Liberia will host Djibouti, aiming to build on their first-leg success and seal their progression to the next round.

Eswatini will host Somalia with confidence, seeking to maintain their winning momentum and secure passage to the next stage of the tournament.

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South Sudan and Sao Tome and Principe will also face off in what is expected to be a closely contested encounter, following their goalless draw in the first leg.

With both teams eager for victory, the match promises to be a thrilling battle for supremacy.

-CAF

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Liberia and Eswatini take control of AFCON preliminary ties

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Liberia and Eswatini take control of AFCON preliminary ties

Liberia and Eswatini took commanding leads in their respective Africa Cup of Nations, Morocco 2025, preliminary round ties after claiming impressive away victories on Wednesday.

Liberia captain Murphy Dorley scored one of two first-half goals as the Lone Stars defeated hosts Djibouti 2-0 in the opening leg in  Marrakech.

Mohammed Sangare broke the deadlock from the penalty spot on 23 minutes before Dorley coolly slotted home Sebastian Teclar’s cross 12 minutes later.

Djibouti struggled to lay a glove on their more illustrious opponents as the Lone Star side kept them at bay to take two away goals into next week’s second leg in Monrovia.

Eswatini were also celebrating after demolishing Somalia 3-0 in the Moroccoan  city of El Jadida to put one foot in the group stage qualifiers.

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Striker Sabelo Ndzinisa was the hero, netting twice either side of Felicio Figuareido’s 40th minute opener for the visitors.

Somalia now face an uphill battle to qualify when they travel to the Mbombela Stadium in the South African city of Nelspruit for the return on March 26th.

The opening leg victories give Liberia and Eswatini a huge advantage heading into the second legs as they target a place in the group stage on the road to next year’s finals in Morocco.

Back from the locker room, Somalia still couldn’t play its game.

Worse, Eswatini widened the gap with Ginindza who scored his double of the evening in the 56th minute. 3-0, the score remained unchanged on the scoreboard until the final whistle.

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Victory for Eswatini which will still have to perform in the return leg to ensure its qualification for the qualifiers.

 

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