Pinnick: Winning AFCON 2019 is Major Target this Year

Amaju Pinnick
Amaju Pinnick

Duro Ikhazuagbe

President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Melvin Pinnick, has said that his main target this year is for the Super Eagles to win the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted by Egypt in summer.

Nigeria has won the African football showpiece three times, the last one was in 2013 in South Africa under the watch of the late former player and captain of the Super Eagles, Stephen Keshi.

Speaking at the weekend in Lagos, Pinnick who also doubles as the 1st Vice President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) insisted that a fourth AFCON title is long overdue for Nigeria, a power-house in the beautiful game globally.

“There are so many competitions this year and we intend to, as usual, put our best foot forward in each and everyone of them. The target always is to emerge victorious. However, the very big one that we do not want to miss is the AFCON title. We have won it three times but we want it for a fourth time so that we can close the gap with the likes of Egypt and Cameroon,” observed Pinnick who is also President of CAF’s Organising Committee.

To achieve these lofty heights, the NFF chief stressed that the Super Eagles as well as all the national teams going for continental and global competitions will need better preparations.

“The NFF will work with the technical crew to achieve an excellent preparation of the Super Eagles for the tournament. Everything legitimate would be done to ensure the Super Eagles triumph in Egypt.

“The NFF will equally give the Super Falcons all the support to perform excellently at the World Cup,” he restated.

Egypt has won the Africa Cup of Nations title seven times while Cameroon emerged champions on five occasions with Ghana having four titles to her credit.

The CAF Executive Committee on Tuesday last week voted for Egypt, hosts of the 1959, 1986 and 2006 editions of the competition, to host the first –ever 24-nation finals scheduled for between June 15th and July 13th this year.

The Super Eagles, like they did in the qualifying race for last year’s FIFA World Cup finals in Russia, have earned a ticket to the finals with a match to spare, following a 1-1 draw with South Africa in Johannesburg on 17th November 2018.

They will take on Seychelles in a purely ceremonial session in Asaba on March 22 to conclude the campaign.

“The match against Seychelles will serve as the beginning of our preparations for the AFCON 2019, to be followed four days later by a friendly against the Egyptian national team at the same venue.

“The team would likely play two matches during its final training camp before the AFCON finals,” Pinnick hinted.

The Draw Ceremony for the four-week, 24-nation championship is expected to be done at the end of March.

Nigeria won her first AFCON title on home soil in 1980, when Olusegun Odegbami scored two of the goals in a 3-0 whiplash of Algeria in the Final at the National Stadium, Lagos on 22nd March 1980.

The second title came in Tunisia in 1994. Emmanuel Amuneke scored both goals in a 2-1 comeback defeat of Zambia at the Stade El Menzah in Tunis on 10thApril 1994.

In 2013, Sunday Mba got the only goal of the final against Burkina Faso at Soccer-city, Johannesburg on 10th February 2013 to give the Super Eagles their third African title. Thereafter, Nigeria has failed to qualify for the last two editions of AFCON.

Apart from the AFCON, Nigerian teams would this year be involved in the Africa U20 Cup of Nations (from where the Flying Eagles expect to qualify for the FIFA U20 World Cup).

Other competitions Nigeria has qualified to feature in include; Africa U17 Cup of Nations (from where the Golden Eaglets expect to qualify for the FIFA U17 World Cup), FIFA Women’s World Cup finals and the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

There is also qualifying series for the Africa U23 Cup of Nations, qualifying series for the All-Africa Games football tournaments, qualifying series for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics football tournaments, qualifying matches for the 2020 African Nations Championship, qualifying matches for the 2020 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup, qualifying matches for the 2020 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup and the preliminary round for the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals.