By Izuchukwu Okosi:
The Mena of Niger could be regarded as the underdogs in the 2016 African Nations Championship but Super Eagles and Warri Wolves midfielder Bartholomew Ibenegbu is mindful of the threat the so-called minnows may cause.
Nigeria begins their CHAN campaign in Rwanda with a Group C game against their west African neighbours on January 18.
The Super Eagles star barred his mind to Completesportsnigeria.com just before he departed with the team on Saturday morning to their South Africa training camp.
"I've played against Niger and that was during the 2011 WAFU Cup in Abeokuta. We defeated them 4-0 then," Ibenegbu reckoned.
"But they are now stronger than the time we played them in the WAFU Cup because most of their home-based players also play for their 'Grade A' national team."
Despite their low rating on the African continent, teams such as Niger could be the giant killers at major tournaments and Ibenegbu was quick to admit the widely held view that great teams can be punished for complacency against their supposedly lesser rivals.
He added, "Everybody is talking about Tunisia and Guinea but I want to believe that Niger will be difficult too.
"Recently we defeated them 2-0 in a friendly but what it was improved team I saw," Mosquito as the former Heartland star is fondly called told Completesportsnigeria.com."
The Eagles departed Lagos for Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon where they will hold a two-week camping exercise before the trip to Rwanda.