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It is just a few days to the kick-off of the 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cote d Ivoire. The question on the lip of every Nigerian therefore, is whether the Super Eagles can replicate their 1994 and 2013 prowess to win their fourth AFCON title. Can the present crop of players, managed by Portuguese born Jose Peseiro, conquer the African continent?

The performance of the Super Eagles since Coach Peseiro took charge has been worrisome to say the least.

Recall that many years ago, the national team was a force to reckon with. The mention of the Nigerian national team, no matter the category, creates fear in the hearts of the opponents. Nigeria was like Goliath to the Israelites but today, we cannot even bite small nations like Zimbabwe and Lesotho with the array of stars in our squad. The present squad has a very potent attack in the guise of Victor Osimhen, Boniface, Chukwueze, Lookman, Sadiq, among others. These boys are dangerous on a good day, but can they find the rhythm that will deliver the coveted trophy to the more than 200 million expectant Nigerians on February 11, 2024, when the tournament will anchor. Wait and see is the watchword!

It is sad however, that Wilfred Ndidi will miss the tournament due to injury, and the presence of Iheanacho is not guaranteed. A very good attack needs a solid defence like the “Rock of Gibraltar” and a coordinated midfield. Does our team have what it takes?

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Equatorial Guinea is waiting for us on the 14th of January, Ivory Coast on the 18th, and Guinea Bissau on the 22nd. Can the Eagles devour their preys?

Some of our players have been doing well for their clubs, but can they replicate the performance at AFCON 2023? The inclusion of only one home-based player (Olorunleke Ojo) of Enyimba FC to the AFCON squad is an indication that Peseiro does not have faith in our professional league, and does not want to develop it. There are good players in the country, but they are not being considered for the national team, which is a big slap on NPFL.

The journey to capture our fourth title begins in a couple of days and to have a successful competition, the NFF and the Ministry for Sports must work together with the team, providing every necessary support to encourage excellence. This is not the time to interfere with the selection of players for a particular match. Match bonuses should be paid when due. A repeat of what happened before the last women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand should be avoided.

Meanwhile, I, as well as other Nigerians, were excited to see Nigerian table tennis star, Quadri Aruna, coming from two sets down to defeat Hugo Calderano of Brazil, to qualify for the quarter-final of the WTT at Doha. He exhibited the Nigerian spirit of ” l can do it”. In the same vein, I much believe that if all hands are on deck, and the players play all the matches without complacency no African nation, no matter how experienced, will challenge them. Then, victory will be ours. Nigeria, argubly have the best players on the continent presently, and that status is expected to reflect in all their games.

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It is time for Nigeria to be the African Champion again!

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