The attention of all football lovers is turned to Cameroon for the AFCON. It is no difference for Nigeria’s supporters who will follow the matches of the Super Eagles. When some think the squad can bring the cup back home, others are more prudent.
The 33rd edition of the rescheduled 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) kicks off on Sunday January 9 in Cameroon. 24 teams will battle each other to determine the next champion of the continent at the Olembe Stadium, on Sunday, February 6.
With the AFCON 2021 kicking off in a few days’ time, ex-Super Eagles midfielder and a winner of the 1994 edition of the tournament in Tunisia, Mutiu Adepoju says the competition will be action-packed.
Speaking from his base in Spain, the former Real Sociedad star says players like Mohamed Salah (Egypt), Sadio Mané (Senegal), and Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) will likely light up the tournament. However, he feels recent events may have an impact on the chances of the Super Eagles in Cameroon. “In the past two weeks and with what has been happening, the changing of coaches and all that. The team is not stable," Adepoju explained.
On his expectation from the team, he is prudent: “I want to believe that the Nigerian spirit of when things are not going smoothly, we find a way of coming out of it and doing well in whatever we do. Probably, I will stay with that; I just have to be careful of what my expectations are, because of the situation we find ourselves”.
Next champions of the continent?
A couple of players from the Nigerian squad will miss the competition due to injuries, Covid restrictions and refusal of their clubs to release them. Notably among them are Victor Osimhen of Napoli (Italy), the top scorer at the last edition of tourney Odion Ighalo of Al Shabab (Saudi Arabia) or Emmanuel Dennis of Watford Football Club (England).
Football pundit Olalekan Yusuff does not see the Super Eagles winning the 2021 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. “Algeria's team are contenders, who are also the defending champion of this tournament. The chances of the Super Eagles of Nigeria leave much to be excited about for this tournament, I wish them the very best. A semifinal finish will turn out to be a good one for them but not a win for Nigeria.”
For Lagos based football coach, Kayode Babatimilehin, the absence of Nigeria’s main goal scorer is nothing to worry about. “We may not be able to back our strikers at the moment because Oshimen is injured right now, and Onuacho is also out. But we have Samuel Chukwueze, Moses Simon and Ahmed Musa.” said Babatimilehin. “From the back William Troost-Ekong is in a great form right now, at the middle of the pack there is Wilfred Ndidi, Joe Aribo and Kelechi Nwakali, this is why I think the Super Eagles might win this particular AFCON to make it the fourth one.”- he stressed. He added that the team would get to at least the semifinal stage of the competition.
Football fans in Nigeria and indeed across the continent are excited and eager for the games to begin. Many say they see the tournament as an opportunity for the current African players to showcase their best.