The Super Eagles of Nigeria have landed in the Cameroonian town of Garoua, the venue of their Group D matches of the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations commencing in that country on Sunday.
Team officials confirmed that the three-time champions will have their first training session in Cameroon on Thursday evening at the Stade Roumdé Adjia, the venue of their Group D games, including Tuesday’s potentially –explosive group opener against seven-time champions Egypt. Nigeria will also confront Sudan on 15th January and Guinea-Bissau on 19th January.
The contingent was flown into Garoua aboard an Air Peace jet, arriving at 11.05pm and the team of 25 players and officials are staying at the Hotel Ribadou. Two players, Italy –based Tyrone Ebuehi and fellow wing-back Jamilu Collins, who plays in Germany, are both expected to team up with the delegation in Garoua. Forward Odion Ighalo is no longer expected as a result of issues with his Saudi Arabian club.
Nigeria’s harvest of 15 podium appearances in 18 participations in the Africa Cup of Nations is the highest tally in Africa’s flagship football championship. The only times they ended without any form of a medal were in their debut in 1963, in Libya 40 years ago and in Ghana 14 years ago. They have won the trophy three times (1980, 1994 and 2013), finished as runners-up four times (1984, 1988, 1990 and 2000) and picked up the bronze medals eight times (1976, 1978, 1992, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2019).
While addressing the players just before the Air Peace jet flew out of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on Wednesday evening, General Secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation, Dr Mohammed Sanusi reiterated his conviction that the 27 players Nigeria would be fielding at the championship are good enough to lift the trophy and earn a fourth triumph for the country.
“I wish you good luck at the tournament on behalf of the Government and people of Nigeria. We know how professional you are and we know you will take the same temperament to the AFCON. We pray against injuries and covid-related health issues.
“The NFF is ready to give you all the support that you need, on behalf of the Government of Nigeria. The NFF President, Mr Amaju Pinnick who is also a member of the AFCON Organizing Committee will join you in Cameroon in two days time. Some of us will also be coming to give you the necessary support and encouragement.”
Skipper Ahmed Musa, who was part of the squad that won the trophy in South Africa nine years ago, said he is confident that the Super Eagles will return to Nigeria with the trophy on 6th February.
The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development held a send-forth dinner for the team at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel on Tuesday night, which was attended by the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Alhaji Ismail Abubakar; NFF 2nd Vice President, Mallam Shehu Dikko; NFF Executive Member, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau; NFF General Secretary, Dr Mohammed Sanusi; Director of FEAD, Dr Simon Ebhojiaye; NFF Director of Finance, Mr Charity Kadiri; NFF Director of Communications, Mr Ademola Olajire and; some officials of the Ministry.