AFCON 2019 COUNTDOWN
13 years after Super Eagles trained at the famous Ismailia Stadium before moving to Port Said for the group stage of the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations tournament, the three-time African champions returned to base yesterday morning and conducted their first session in the Egyptian city.
In 2006, Nigeria was grouped alongside Black Stars of Ghana, Warriors of Zimbabwe and Teranga Lions of Senegal whom Eagles will play in their last friendly this weekend before the kick off of AFCON 2019.
Interestingly, Nigeria topped the group ahead of Senegal whom they later eliminated in the third placed match in Cairo.
Early hours of yesterday, the John Mikel Obi-led squad was received at the Cairo airport by Nigeria’s Foreign Mission in Egypt led by Emmanuel Oguntoyi (Minister at the Embassy of Nigeria, Cairo) and Muhammed Tukur Garba (Administrative Attaché) who represented the Nigerian Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt.
Later in the evening, Eagles had their first training session at the pitch located within the premises of their Hotel Mercure.
According to Eagles programme during the one-week stay before moving to Alexandria, a number of technical and tactical sessions are scheduled for the team before going up against Senegal’s Teranga Lions on Sunday evening.
At a friendly game at The Hive in London in March 2017 (the most recent of the 21 encounters between the two nations), both teams settled for a 1-1 draw, with Moussa Sow putting the Lions ahead nine minutes into the second half before Kelechi Iheanacho tied the game from the penalty spot with only nine minutes to go.
Incidentally, the Leicester City man was one of the two players dropped from Nigeria’s final AFCON 2019 squad.
Super Eagles are up against Burundi’s Itamba Ru Mugamba, Guinea’s Syli Nationale and Madagascar’s Barea in Group B of the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations, with Alexandria as venue for the first game.
Nigeria’s only match at the city that is surrounded by water was the 0-1 semi final loss to Côte d’Ivoire in the 2006 edition. Didier Drogba scored the lone goal in the early minutes of the restart.