Football fans in Enugu say they are proud of the home-based Super Eagles’ performance at the ongoing 2018 African Nation Championship (CHAN) in Morocco.
The Eagles on Wednesday night booked their place at the final of the tournament after beating Sudan 1-0 to face hosts Morocco in the final.
The 2018 African Nations Championship, known as the Total African Nations Championship (also referred to as CHAN 2018) will be the 5th edition of the biennial football competition.
It is organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and exclusively featuring players from the respective national championships.
Nigeria ranked 51 in the world in the FIFA/Coca Cola is making its third appearance after finishing in the third place in 2014.
Some of the enthusiasts who spoke to newsmen in Enugu, yesterday said the players had surpassed their predecessors’ achievement of third place finish.
A former Nigerian World Boxer, Ikechukwu Okoronkwo, said that the current players had surpassed everybody’s expectation.
“At the very beginning, I never thought that they will reach this level when they draw their first match against Rwanda.
“When I watched their first and second matches and saw how the players missed goal scoring chances, I did not expect them to go beyond the quarter-finals.
“I am happy that those lost scoring chances did not come back to hurt them and as a true Nigerian, the trophy will be a better compensation for the country,’’ he said.
Rangers Media Officer Norbert Okolie said that the players had proved that they were there for business.
“We have not touched this trophy since its inception and for Nigeria to reach the final in Morocco, it is a huge success,’’ he said.
He called on the players to give it one more push as they have 90 minutes separating them and the trophy.
Contributing, Enugu State Boxing Coach Blaise Ude prayed that the team would be successful in the final.
“It surprised me to see the players survive the remaining minutes of the game against Sudan after been reduced to 10 men with Ifeanyi ifeanyi sent off in the 59th minute.
“In fact, everything worked in our favour on Wednesday night against Sudan as Dele Ajiboye the second goalkeeper came in for the injured Ikechukwu Ezenwa and made several saves,’’ he said.
Austin Ezenwata, who runs a football show in Abakpa Nike, Enugu, said that Nigeria deserved to be in final and hoped that they lifted the trophy.
“All the players were not exposed to international football and besides, they have no room in the squad used by the Nigerian coach to prosecute the 2018 World Cup qualifier,’’ Ezenwa said.
He advised the players to go for the trophy against Morocco and to ensure they scored an early goal in the match to ease pressure of the home crowd.
‘I Can Discover Ballon d’Or Winners In Nigeria’
Ex-Nigeria international Usman Abdallah has declared that he can help the country groom future Ballon d’Or winners if he is handed the U20 job.
Abdallah, who led Enyimba to win the 2019 Nigeria Professional Football League and a Confederation Cup semi-final finish, is favourite to replace Paul Aigbogun for the Flying Eagles’ head coach role.
His outstanding CV features a Uefa A license, a degree in football coaching and team management (France) and a Strength and Conditioning level 1 coaching certificate in Australia.
According to reports, the Nigeria Football Federation will announce the Franco-Nigerian in the coming days, a claim the tactician is unsure of when quizzed by newsmen.
“Just like every other person, I applied for the job but I’m yet to get confirmation if I was picked or not.
“Nigeria is my country and it will be nice if I eventually get this role because it will be a big chance to serve. Also, I have what it takes to discover future Ballon d’Or winners for the country.
“Without sounding immodest, I strongly believe that I will excel in this position not only because of my wealth of experience but because of my closeness to grassroots football.
“As I have always said, this level deserves a lot of serious work because players picked at this level form a pivot of future Super Eagles,”he told newsmen.
After a failed expedition at the 2019 Fifa U20 World Cup in Poland, Nigeria will be hoping to qualify for Indonesia 2021 through the Africa U20 Cup of Nations scheduled for Mauritania.
Champions, Europa Leagues Finals Likely For August
The Champions League and Europa League look increasingly likely to be played exclusively in August after more talks about the remainder of the 2019-20 season on Wednesday.
Uefa told the 55 associations on Tuesday there was still the possibility of the competitions being played throughout June, July and August.
But Tidesports source understands that the latest discussions revolved almost exclusively around a plan to complete the domestic leagues by 31 July, with European competition following after that.
Nothing definitive has been agreed but Uefa is keen to leave all options on the table for as long as possible given the general uncertainty across Europe and in the knowledge there is no guarantee the season will be finished.
However, there is a view that travel restrictions are more likely to have eased in August, which would be necessary for a cross-border competition.
The scenario envisaged would be for the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the respective European competitions to be played as two-legged ties between 11 and 22 August, although these could yet become one-off games.
In the plans now being discussed, there would be some flexibility for domestic fixtures to be played in August, should a July conclusion prove impossible.
The Premier League has nine rounds of fixtures remaining but in Spain and Italy, two countries that have been badly affected, there are still 11 and 12 rounds left respectively – although both have fewer cup games to fit into their schedules.
Uefa hopes the situation will become clearer in the next fortnight but completing the season in this way would cause the least disruption to its qualification competition for the 2020-21 season, which was supposed to start at the end of June but has been delayed indefinitely.
S’Eagles’ll Miss Mikel, Ighalo -Etebo
John Obi Mikel and Odion Ighalo would remain a big miss for Nigeria, concedes Oghenekaro Etebo, with the Super Eagles still coming to terms with their retirement.
After the Super Eagles clinched third-place at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, the duo drew the curtains on their international careers.
Mikel, 32, was the first to bow out before Egypt 2019 top scorer Ighalo followed the path of the former Chelsea star.
Coach Gernot Rohr is prepared to put faith in the likes of Joe Aribo, Alex Iwobi and Victor Osimhen as replacements for the duo.
The Getafe man said it was clear that the three-time African kings would miss Mikel and Ighalo for their leadership attributes, but believes Osimhen can fill the vacuum left by the Manchester United striker.
“They are leaders who we are going to be missed in the dressing room,” he stated.
“Mikel was a leader; I recall how he helped us during the Olympics when we had issues during our preparations for the Games. Not because I played with him but for the impact he had on me as a player.
“They helped the team make vital decisions during tough times and I guess it was just time for them to move on.
“Ighalo on his part is a goal poacher that we also miss but thank God that we have another goal poacher in [Victor] Osimhen, but we have to be patient with him to settle in well into that role.”
After the coronavirus pandemic, Rohr is expected to begin life without the retired players as Nigeria would be hoping to qualify for the 2021 Afcon billed for Cameroon.
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