Nigeria last lifted the AFCON trophy in 2013 and ahead of the return of the continental tournament on January 9 we spoke to Nigerian football journalist Stephan Emmanuel about what we should expect from the Super Eagles in Cameroon. They have been put in Group D alongside Egypt, Sudan, and Guinea-Bissau.
Do you think Nigeria can win the AFCON this time around? How do you compare them from the last team that won it in 2013?
I do not think Nigeria can win the AFCON 2021 reason being that there is no adequate preparation. The Sacking of Gernot Rohr will definitely affect the performance of the players because the interim manager (Augustine Eguavoen) barely knows the players and the right tactics to adopt for them. The timing is just too short for him.
I think we have a formidable team than the one that won the trophy in 2013. The 2013 set was a combination of home based and foreign players. This set is capable to go far if the right approach is applied.
On the Interim Coach
I don’t expect the coach to bring something new. He has managed the team in the past and I am sure he would adopt the same strategy. The only difference here would be the present crop of players.
Ethiopia faced Nigeria in the group stage of AFCON 2013. What are your memories about that game?
What I will never forget about that encounter with Ethiopia was Victor Moses’ brilliance in that game. He was the player that stole the show for Nigeria. He was just everywhere.
Which players are you expecting to shine for the Super Eagles?
I think players like Chidera Ejuke, Samuel Chukwueze, Chidozie Awaziem would shine.
How do you assess the Emmanuel Dennis situation after it was announced he will stay with his club, Watford?
I think Watford never wanted to release him for the tournament. The excuse they are giving is not convincing. I would only blame the Nigeria Football Federation for not being proactive. On second thought, Dennis was convinced to stay put at the club because he is an important part of the team.
How big of a loss will the absence of Victor Osimhen be?
Osimhen’s absence no doubt would be a huge blow to our campaign. He was our only reliable striker at the moment. Dennis would have filled the vacuum but he would also not be available. It is a big loss to Nigeria really.
Which other sides do you think will be the toughest competitors?
Egypt definitely. But if Nigeria scales through the group stage I see Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Algeria as the toughest opponents in the competition.