2019 AFCON Qual­i­fier Nige­ria Set to Put Hope on Track against Sey­chelles

THISDAY - - GLOBAL SOCCER -

When the 2019 Africa Cup of Na­tions qual­i­fier draws were made and Nige­ria was drawn in Group E along­side Libya, South Africa and Sey­chelles many foot­ball fans in the coun­try were op­ti­mistic that with the cal­iber of play­ers in the Su­per Ea­gles fold, pick­ing the ticket to the AFCON party slated for Cameroon should not pose much prob­lem this time around af­ter miss­ing out of the last two edi­tions.

In Nige­ria first group game against South Africa-a side that was yet to beat Nige­ria in a com­pet­i­tive game be­fore then, at the Godswill Ak­pabio Sta­dium, Uyo,(a venue which was un­til then a fortress for the Su­per Ea­gles), op­ti­mism was high on the part of the host.

How­ever, it was not to be as two sec­ond half goals from Tokelo Rantie and Percy Tau were enough to earn the South Africans all three points, in spite of coach Ger­not Rohr field­ing a strong side that in­cludes Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheana­cho, Wil­fred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo among other stars. In­spite of the loss to South Africa, Min­is­ter of Youths and Sports, Solomon Dalung is op­ti­mistic of Ea­gles qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

"This is a tem­po­rary set­back which is sur­mount­able. We need to sit with the tech­ni­cal com­mit­tee and the team's tech­ni­cal crew to find out the im­me­di­ate and re­mote causes of this set­back," Dalung said.

"The Su­per Ea­gles will def­i­nitely be in Cameroon be­cause we can't af­ford to be ab­sent at the AFCON for a third con­sec­u­tive time. We will en­sure that no stone is left un­turned in our pur­suit of a ticket to Cameroon," he added.

In­ter­est­ingly, Sey­chelles head coach, Gavin Jeanne, be­lieves his side can cause a big up­set by beat­ing the Su­per Ea­gles.

The Pi­rates oc­cupy bot­tom place in Group E of the AFCON 2029 qual­i­fiers af­ter go­ing down 5-1 to Libya in June last year and they face an­other huge test against the Su­per Ea­gles who pa­rade some of the best play­ers on the con­ti­nent.

But Jeanne says that the Pi­rates are fully ready for the match which he de­scribes as the big­gest in the his­tory of the coun­try’s na­tional foot­ball team.

“Yes, we are very ready and pos­i­tive about our chances against Nige­ria,” Jeanne told re­porters in Vic­to­ria.

“We have pre­pared well and I hope the play­ers main­tain their fo­cus and stick to the plan. We have en­joyed a good build-up to the game. It’s our big­gest foot­ball match in his­tory. We have tested our­selves enough from our par­tic­i­pa­tion it the Cosafa Cup till now. I hope it goes well and we make a pos­i­tive im­pact.”

How­ever, it was not to be as two sec­ond half goals from Tokelo Rantie and Percy Tau were enough to earn the South Africans all three points, in spite of coach Ger­not Rohr field­ing a strong side that in­cludes Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheana­cho, Wil­fred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo among other stars

Mean­while, 1st Vice Pres­i­dent of the Nige­ria Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion, Seyi Ak­in­wunmi has as­sured Nige­rian foot­ball en­thu­si­asts, that the Su­per Ea­gles will re­turn with three points against Sey­chelles.

Ak­in­wumi is op­ti­mistic that the Ea­gles will re­vive their qual­i­fi­ca­tion chances, say­ing that most of the na­tional teams play­ers were in fine form and this would give them an edge over the Sey­chelles.

“We are de­lighted that our play­ers are en­joy­ing reg­u­lar game min­utes it will aid their fit­ness and put them in the right frame of mind to face any hur­dle. This will go a long way in help­ing the Su­per Ea­gles win the game against Sey­chelles. It will af­ford the tech­ni­cal crew to have fit and ac­tive play­ers in camp. I believe that we have the ma­chin­ery and tools to come out vic­to­ri­ous at Roche Caiman,” Ak­in­wumi said.

Speak­ing in the same vien, Udi­nese de­fender, Wil­liam Ekong is con­fi­dent the Su­per Ea­gles can qual­ify for the 2019 African Cup of Na­tions in Cameroon if they per­form at their op­ti­mal level with five games left to play in group E.

Ekong told the Thenff.com in an in­ter­view that the dis­ap­point­ment of not qual­i­fy­ing for the sec­ond round at the 2018 FIFA World Cup will spur the team to qual­ify for the 2019 AFCON.

“I think we have demon­strated now that when Nige­ria plays at its best there aren’t many teams we have to fear,” Ekong toldthenff.com.

“But it will be a hard job in the next two months and I know the boys and staffs are tak­ing these games very se­ri­ous. But of course, I believe if we per­form at our op­ti­mum, we will garner the points from the re­main­ing matches and qual­ify for the fi­nal tour­na­ment.”

“It was hard for all of us not to make progress from the group stage at the World Cup. But I still look back with pride about the team be­cause our out­ing in Rus­sia has def­i­nitely made us hun­grier to qual­ify for the 2019 AFCON and to go all the way there.”

How­ever, Rohr has stated that he and his play­ers are in Sey­chelles for se­ri­ous busi­ness. Af­ter one hour train­ing ses­sion on Thurs­day, at­tended by all 21 play­ers avail­able for the match, the Franco-Ger­man tac­ti­cian told thenff. com that play­ers and of­fi­cials are very much aware of the cru­cial na­ture of to­day’s game.

“Ev­ery­one re­al­izes the im­por­tance of this match. We are cur­rently num­ber three in our group and that po­si­tion does not be­fit Su­per Ea­gles of Nige­ria. It is not good for us be­cause it is out­side the qual­i­fi­ca­tion range. The play­ers know this. They know that they have to show char­ac­ter to put our cam­paign back on track with a good re­sult.”

Sey­chelles is a lead­ing tourist des­ti­na­tion with plane –loads of fun seek­ers troop­ing in on daily ba­sis to spend good time re­lax­ing on any of the ma­jor is­lands in the 115 is­lands that make up the ar­chi­pel­ago. But Rohr made it clear his boys are not va­ca­tion­ers look­ing for re­lax­ation.

“We are not here on va­ca­tion. We are here for se­ri­ous busi­ness. We have a young, am­bi­tious team and Nige­ria has a bet­ter pedi­gree in the game of foot­ball than Sey­chelles. But we must not un­der­rate them in any way or take things for granted.

“The World Cup is be­hind us now, but we must al­low the lessons we learnt in Rus­sia to make us bet­ter and more ef­fi­cient in our ap­proach. The Cup of Na­tions is the fo­cus now and we must get a good re­sult to­day to get our cam­paign back, and then we can now look ahead with de­ter­mi­na­tion to win the re­main­ing matches in our group to qual­ify eas­ily for the cham­pi­onship.”

To prove their se­ri­ous­ness about the match, the play­ers have ar­rived in camp early, as at Tues­day 18 play­ers had al­ready re­ported to camp.

The camp of Nige­ria’s Su­per Ea­gles came very much alive in Vic­to­ria, Mahé Is­land in Sey­chelles fol­low­ing the ar­rival of six more play­ers on Tues­day af­ter­noon, which brought the num­ber of play­ers at the team’s Savoy Ho­tel Re­sort and Spa to 18.

By Tues­day morn­ing, there were 12 play­ers in all: Henry Onyekuru, Ken­neth Omeruo, Fran­cis Uzoho, Semi Ajayi, Sa­muel Kalu, Wil­fred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheana­cho, Chi­dozie Awaziem, Kelechi Nwakali, Bryan Idowu, Simeon Nwankwo and Joel Obi.

In the af­ter­noon, Saudi Ara­bia -based Ahmed Musa, along­side Turkey –based Ogenyi Onazi, China -based Odion Ighalo, Ger­many–based Jamilu Collins and the Eng­land–based duo of Oghenekaro Etebo and Leon Ba­lo­gun ar­rived camp and joined the team for lunch.

Rohr

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