Thursday, 01 December, 2022


AFCON 2021

Nigerian Super Eagles Team Photo

AFCON 2021 is finally off to a start. The 33rd edition of the biannual event which was scheduled to take place last year but was postponed due to the pandemic was finally given the green light to commence this year.

The host nation, five time champions Cameroon kicked off proceedings in style defeating Burkina Faso two goals to one in the tournament’s opening fixture.

Two rounds of group stage fixtures have been played so far with the standout match to me being Nigeria’s victory over the Pharaohs of Egypt in their opening group “D” fixture.

This excites me for various reasons, chief among them being the fact that i am a proud Nigerian.

The victory over the Pharaohs wasn’t an upset. According to the latest FIFA rankings, the Super Eagles are ranked 36th as opposed to the Pharaohs at 45th.True football lovers however know not to look at rankings as the only judgement parameter.

The Egyptians had a trump card in Mo Salah,the best player in the continent and arguably,the world.They also had an experienced team and great defense as well,add that to the fact they had won the tournament 7 times,the most of any nation and you understand why they were so formidable.

Going into the match, getting a draw would have been cheered by Nigerians but our boys went one further ,they got the win and in style too.

From kick off to the final whistle, the Pharaohs were dominated and outclassed, the Super Eagles had sent a message to the competition and secured bragging rights for the nation who will now dare to dream again. Less than a week later, the Super Eagles dispatched the Sudanese team in similar fashion.

Things appear to be moving smoothly but it wasn’t so heading into the tournament .Gernot Rohr the head coach was sacked in December after qualifying the team for the nations cup and seeing them to the top of the table in world cup qualifications.

Sacking Rohr close to the tournament was a gamble and seemed a recipe for disaster as it stood the risk of disrupting the progress the team had made so far. Two matches in and Eguavoen, his temporary replacement has held his own delivering solid performances back to back.

There was also the issue of foreign clubs delaying or out rightly refusing to release players citing dubious injuries and deadline expiration, these have resulted in the Super Eagles missing their best strikers in Osimhen,Onuachu and Ighalo who won the golden boot in the previous tournament. Iheanacho and Awoniyi have stepped up to the plate ensuring that the absent players won’t be greatly missed by their competent displays so far.

Excitement is high,morale is skyrocketing following the display of the boys but i can’t shake off feelings of de javu.Supporting the Super Eagles has always been a roller coaster experience and recent emotions being shown towards the team’s chances of victory seem familiar.The real question is,will this team go all the way or would they fill us with hope only to break our hearts in the end?No country has had more podium finishes in AFCON’s history than Nigeria(15) winning only 3 times .That means our hopes have been dashed a whopping 12 times before.

So should we then listen to statistics and odds and give up hope? No! we should not and we will not! There is no trait more human than hope! The dogged belief that it would be better this time! The belief that this team blessed with talent will lead us to victory. Without hope, one simply can’t live nor dream!

Sky Bet odds has pegged the Super Eagles a distant 6th favourite to win the title. I wish they can see me rolling my eyes at them right now. I believe in the super eagles not because it is the patriotic thing to do but because i have seen them in action and know they have it in them to go all the way. All i can say to them is “Don’t be shy, seize the moment and grab the gold! “Rest assured, they would have the undying love of a grateful nation.

Written by Oyeka Noble

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