5TH AFRICAN NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP
* Salisu lists Rabiu Ali, Okpotu, 21 others for the tournament
Captain of the Home-based Eagles, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, has promised that the team is heading to the 5th African Nations Championship (CHAN) starting in Morocco on January 13 to win the trophy.
Nigeria’s best performance in CHAN so far is the bronze won at the 2014 edition in South Africa.
But Ezenwa who stood between the sticks when the senior national team qualified Nigeria for the 2018 World Cup is looking forward to consolidating by leading the home-based players to lift the CHAN title in Morocco when the final is played on February 4.
“The most important thing for us (Eagles) right now is to go to Morocco and do the nation proud by winning the trophy,” stressed the former FC Ifeanyiubah safe hands to NFF website yesterday.
He insisted that the team’s preparation for the 2018 CHAN has been very good.
“We have had very good preparation so far and the unity in the team is awesome and with that, I am confident of a better outing than the last time in Rwanda.”
Part of the team’s preparation included participation in the WAFU Cup of Nations tournament which took place in Cape Coast, Ghana in September 2017 (where the team finished as runners-up); participation in the Nigeria Professional Football League Super Six Tournament in Kano in December 2017 (which it won) and a series of friendly matches during the last phase of camping in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Asked about the team’s chances in Group C with opponents such as Rwanda, Libya and Equatorial Guinea to contend with, Ezenwa insisted Eagles are going to take every game is it comes.
“First of all, we are going to take each game as it comes; Rwanda, Libya and Equatorial Guinea are very good sides when it comes to the CHAN tournament. Look at the last edition, Rwanda were very tough and they performed better than us.
“The Libyans are former champions so they are no newcomers to the competition and for Equatorial Guinea, they will be coming with the bunch of players that played the World Cup qualifiers for them, so to be honest, it’s going to be a very tough group for us but we are up to the task,” the Home-based Eagles supremo assured Nigerian fans.
Ezenwa sees the CHAN in Morocco as opportunity for any of the home-based players to prove their worth as Super Eagles Franco-German coach, Gernot Rohr may extend call up to anyone who distinguishes himself in the competition.
“I think any player that does very well will have an opportunity (to go to Russia) because the Technical Adviser, Mr. Gernot Rohr will be in Morocco with us just like he was with us in Ghana where some players who did well were invited for the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Zambia,” reasoned the team captain.
Meanwhile, Head Coach of the team, Salisu Yusuf, yesterday released his final squad for the CHAN in Morocco starting next week, with Ezenwa, midfield Trojan Rabiu Ali and marksman Anthony Okpotu listed.
Ezenwa is joined for the goalkeeping duties by Oladele Ajiboye and Theophilus Afelokhai, and defensive stalwarts Osas Okoro, Stephen Eze and Kalu Orji Okogbue also made the list, as midfielders Ifeanyi Ifeanyi and Ekundayo Ojo and forwards Sunday Faleye and Emeka Atuloma.
The team of 23 players and their officials are expected to fly out of the country in a few days, to continue preparations in Morocco ahead of Nigeria’s first match of the campaign against Rwanda in Tangier on Monday, January 15.
The 2014 bronze medallists will also play 2014 champions Libya at the same Ibn Batouta Stadium in Tangier on Friday, January 19, before travelling to Agadir to tackle Equatorial Guinea on Tuesday, January 23.
Goalkeepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba FC); Oladele Ajiboye (Plateau United); Theophilus Afelokhai (Enyimba FC)
Defenders: Osas Okoro (Rangers International); Daniel James (Plateau United); Kalu Orji Okogbue (Rangers International); Ikouwem Utin (Enyimba FC); Abdullahi Musa (Wikki Tourists); Timothy Danladi (Katsina United); Ifeanyi Nweke (Kano Pillars); Stephen Eze (Kano Pillars)
Midfielders: Ifeanyi Ifeanyi (Akwa United); Rabiu Ali (Kano Pillars); Augustine Oladapo (Enyimba FC); Ekundayo Ojo (Sunshine Stars)
Forwards: Emeka Atuloma (Rivers United); Anthony Okpotu (Lobi Stars); Eneji Moses (Plateau United); Ibrahim Mustapha (Enyimba FC); Emeka Ogbuh (Rivers United); Sunday Faleye (Akwa United); Nura Muhammed (El-Kanemi Warriors); Okechukwu Gabriel (Akwa United)