*Team in first training session since settling down in Alexandria
After arriving in Alexandria, the venue of Nigeria’s 32nd Africa Cup of Nations Group B matches in Egypt on Monday from Ismailia, Super Eagles have been charged to win this edition of the tournament.
Since winning the last edition Nigeria featured in last at South Africa 2013, Super Eagles failed to make the cut to the last two editions in 2015 and 2017.
Six years after that feat at the FNB Stadium by the class of 2013 Eagles under the watch of late Stephen Keshi, President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Melvin Pinnick wants the team to wipe away the sad memories of missing the last two editions of the African football showpiece by adding Egypt 2019 as the country’s fourth AFCON title.
Pinnick who incidentally is the chief executive office of AFCON 2019 gave this charge shortly after Eagles first training session yesterday at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport in the port city.
“Do not take any team for granted. Easy groups exist only on paper; things are different on the pitch. The NFF will ensure you get all that is due to you. This is a very important tournament and Nigerians are fully behind you. You should do your very best not to disappoint them.
“The NFF is happy about the situation in camp; the commitment, discipline and dedication of each and everyone of you. You have all the quality of a champion team and everything about you is positive,” observed Pinnick who also doubles as CAF’s First Vice President.
Interestingly, only three players from that Keshi’s all-conquering squad of 2013 are in Egypt with Nigerian senior team.
Captain John Mikel Obi along with Ahmed Musa and Kenneth Omeruo are the only surviving members from the class of 2013. Head Coach, Gernot Rohr is keeping faith with the bulk of green horns he took to Russia for the World Cup last year.
Responding on behalf of his teammates, Captain John Mikel Obi promised that the three-time African champions will be very professional on and off the pitch and do all they can to make the country proud again.
“Mr. President, we thank you for all that you have done for this team over the years, as the head of Nigerian Football. We appreciate your honest approach to all issues that concern our welfare.
“We all are aware of what is at stake. This tournament will not be child’s play or a stroll in the park, but we are ready. It will be tough but when it gets tough, we will get tougher.”
The three-time champions will kick off their campaign against Burundi on 22 June before facing West African rivals Guinea in the second Group B match on 26 June and debutants Madagascar four days later. All Nigeria’s group matches are in Alexandria.