The Super Eagles are one of the countries with multiple achievements in the African continent and with a host of legends in the AFCON. Segun Odegbami was a key contributor to Nigeria’s first AFCON title in 1980, scoring twice in a comfortable 3-0 win over Algeria in the final.
The torch was passed on to Rashidi Yekini, the forward who earned the player of the tournament award and the top scorer award (scored five goals) after Nigeria beat Zambia 2-1 in the 1994 final. Victor Moses took the mantle in 2013 and his sensational performances earned him the Player of the Tournament award after Nigeria sealed their third title in a 1-0 win over Burkina Faso.
The Super Eagles have participated in 17 AFCON tournaments so far and have proven to be a force to reckon with, for other nations.
Nigeria started their AFCON journey in 1963, leaving the showcase in the group stages. They have been sensational since then, winning the competition on three occasions (1980, 1994 and 2013). Nigeria have been no strangers to the silver medal either, taking it four times (1984, 1988, 1990 and 2000).
The Super Eagles have also taken the bronze medal seven times (1976, 1978, 1992, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010). 1963, 1982 and 2008 are the only years Nigeria has failed to bring home a medal, making them one of the most prolific teams to have ever participated in the competition.
Nigeria is back in the limelight after failing to qualify for the last two previous AFCON competitions. They are now third place in Africa and 45th in the FIFA World rankings.
Gernot Rohr leads the side once again after disappointment in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. The German-born tactician has had a wealth of experience with African nations. The countries on his resume are Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso.
He was appointed coach of Nigeria in August 2016 and led the side to a world cup appearance two years later. They, unfortunately, were knocked out in the group stage and Rohr is out to make amends in Egypt.
Gernot will be without star man Victor Moses after he announced his retirement in 2018. The 2013 AFCON player of the tournament will be a huge miss for the side. Rohr has a lot of other experienced guys in his team however and will have fewer problems integrating them into the side.
How they qualified
Nigeria put up a good performance to secure top spot in Group E during qualification. The Super Eagles earned 13 points, only one above second-place South Africa.
The defeat came in the hands of the Bafana Bafana in their first match. 2-0 was the scoreline and the return fixture saw them held to a 1-1 draw. The rest were wins over Libya (4-0 and 2-3) and Seychelles (0-3 and 3-1).
Who’s in their group?
Nigeria will play in Group B with Burundi, Guinea and debutants Madagascar.
How did they fare against those teams?
The three time AFCON winners have been superior against Madagascar, winning 3 times and drawing 1 in four encounters. The match between Guinea and Nigeria will temporarily decide the better side. Both have beaten each other 5 times and have drawn 7 (5W 7D 5D). Rohr’s men have only faced Burundi once (1999) and came out 2-0 victors.
John Obi Mikel will be tasked with the job of leading the side on the pitch. The captain is the most capped player in the current lineup and will be expected to set an example on the field with his composure on the ball. He has scored 8 times for the Super Eagles and will hope to score more in Egypt.
Did you know?
Nigeria is home to the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos state, connecting Lagos Island to the mainland. The Bridge is currently the longest in Africa.
Nigeria is also one of the oldest locations of human existence. Archeological discoveries have shown that there was a history of human existence in the country which has been dated as far back as 9000 BC and the Nok civilization is the earliest known civilization in the country (around 500 BC- 200 AD).
Player to watch
Wilfred Ndidi is one of the players to watch in this tournament. Ndidi is one of the top interceptors in the game today and it is backed by the 83 interceptions made for Leicester last season.
That puts him in third place in the Premier League behind Etienne Capoue (86) and Aaron Wan Bissaka (84). Eyes will be on him to replicate his stellar form last season.
Honorable mention to Shanghai Shenhua’s Odion Ighalo, please. The 29-year-old finished the tournament’s qualification phase as the top scorer with seven goals. He has impressed for his club this season’s Chinese Super League, netting 21 goals in 28 appearances.
How far will they go?
Nigeria will be expected to easily advance to the next stage of the competition. They have been without a medal since 2013 and will be expected to win one, possibly the bronze in July.
Follow all Nigeria’s games with #JoyAFCON. There’s live radio commentary on Joy 99.7FM, post-match programs on Joy FM, JoyNews TV (available via MultiTV Digibox and on DStv channel 421), Joy Prime (on DStv 281), analysis shows, and fanzones. Follow complete social media coverage on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with @JoySportsGH.
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