The home-based Eagles are to begin their group stage campaign of the sub-regional WAFU Nations Cup this afternoon against the Aigions of Mali at the Cape Coast Stadium in Ghana. Kick off time is 4pm Nigerian time.
Coach Salisu Yusuf and his wards on Monday evening defeated Sierra Leone 2-0 to berth in the group stage while Mali overpowered Mauritania 3-1.
But the Nigerian gaffer is not underrating the Malians as he believes that the game may not be a walk in the park for the super Eagles.
Yusuf who watched Mali beat Mauritania admitted yesterday that he was impressed with their size, strength and aggression, but believes his players will use their intelligence to go past the Eagles of Bamako.
“We watched Mali beat Mauritania before our own game against Sierra Leone. They have some tall, big players especially in the defence, they are also well organised and are aggressive,” he remarked to SCORENigeria.com
“But I expect my team to use their intelligence to outwit them.
“It won’t be an easy game but we are now a lot more settled after how we rushed in for the game against a very confident Sierra Leone team, who wanted to shock us.
“We have since had two trainings and that will help us against Mali.”
Yusuf was forced to rely on the core of the CHAN Eagles for the playoff against Sierra Leone because his squad to the WAFU Cup had not trained together before they departed for Ghana.
“I have had some time to look at the other players here with us and we will see how they fit in for our subsequent matches.
“The important thing is that we are preparing for CHAN next year in earnest,” he stressed ahead of today’s group opening game.
Friday Ubong and Peter Eneji, who were not part of the CHAN qualifiers, were introduced in the second half against Sierra Leone with Eneji from champions Plateau United catching the eye with a well-taken goal and great drive on the left side of the attack. Osas Okoro scored the other goal to lift Nigeria above the Leone Stars.
AITEO ROUND OF 16
FC Abuja 0-0 Niger Tornadoes
Akwa Starlets 1-2 Plateau United
Ngwa FC 1-3 Sunshine Stars
Osun United 2-1 El-Kanemi Babes
Unicem Rovers 0-1 ABS FC
Akwa United 5-1 Shooting Stars
Ekiti United 1-1 Katsina United Feeders
FC IfeanyiUbah 3-1 Heartland FC
QUALIFIED FOR Q’FINALS
*MATCHES TO BE REPLAYED (SEPT 16)
Niger Tornadoes Vs FC Abuja at Confluence Stadium, Lokoja
Katsina Utd Feeders Vs Ekiti Utd at Muhammadu Dikko Stadium, Katsina