As the stage is set for the kick-off of the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) this weekend, Completesportsnigeria.com’s JOHNNY EDWARD outlines five reasons Salisu Yusuf’s men should be considered the favourites to win the title.
1. Wealth Of Experience
The Home Eagles’ experience at the 2017 WAFU Cup of Nations in Ghana will come in very handy during the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) tournament in Morocco. Salisu Yusuf’s side reached the final of the tournament in Ghana after a slow start, but lost to Ghana 4-1.
Since footballers are creatures of habit, a little inside knowledge of how they capitulated in the final will be more than welcome for the ten players who were in that squad. Knowing the expectation of fans back home, the team will be eager to banish the horror their poor showing in the final of the WAFU Vhp against Ghana by surpassing their previous achievement when they battle, Rwanda, Libya and Equatorial Guinea in the group stage. Also, knowing that a good outing could hand them a 2018 World Cup chance could be a huge motivation to the squad.
2. Coach Yusuf’s Ambition To Succeed
Salisu Yusuf’s first task will be to guide the team past the group stage in his debut appearance at the competition as head coach, a feat his former boss, Sunday Oliseh could not achieve in the last edition of the tournament staged in Rwanda.
Yusuf will use the lessons learnt in the last tournament in Rwanda where the Home Eagles failed to advance to the quarter-finals, to guide his team to glory in Morocco.
Also, he will be ambitious to bag his first major laurel as a coach with the Home Eagles, having led the team to the final of the West African Football Union (WAFU) Cup of Nations in Ghana last year.
3. Good Blend of Young And Experienced Players
Nigeria’s squad depth has been supplemented with an injection of fresh legs. From the 2017 WAFU Cup squad. Adeleye Olamilekan, Emmanuel Ariwachukwu Chima Akas, Samuel Mathias (El-Kanemi Warriors); Destiny Ashadi, Kingsley Eduwo, and Ubong Friday have all been left out with the likes of Sunday Faleye, Nura Muhammed, Ikouwem Utin, Abdullahi Musa, Peter Eneji and Ifeanyi Nweke among those expected to fill their size able boots.
Combining these youngsters’ eagerness to impress with the experienced heads like Rabiu Ali, Osas Okoro, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Anthony Okpotu, the Home Eagles could well be on a road to success in Morocco.
4. No Much Pressure of ‘Favorites’ Tag
Judging from how Nigeria have fared at the tournament since making their debut appearance, the Home Eagles are not widely touted as the favorites to win this championship in Morocco, and this will allow the team play with more freedom and less pressure.
Teams like DR Congo who have won the tournament twice, 2014 winners Libya, Angola who reached the final in 2011 are amongst the countries tipped to excel
5. Strength In Depth Of The Squad
The players who made Coach Salisu’s squad all have proved to be one of the best legs in their respective positions.
The Home Eagles are going into the CHAN tournament with 13 new players who were not part of the 2017 West African Football Union (WAFU) Cup of Nations in Ghana, but these newbies performed brilliantly for their respective teams in the Nigerian Professional Football League last season.
This is because the regular players in the squad all joined new teams in Europe to further their career abroad while some were ruled out due to injuries.
The players in the squad are Theophilus Afelokhai (Enyimba FC), Kalu Orji Okogbue (Rangers International), Ikouwem Utin (Enyimba FC), Abdullahi Musa (Wikki Tourists); Timothy Danladi (Katsina United), Ifeanyi Nweke (Kano Pillars),Ibrahim Mustapha (Enyimba FC), Emeka Ogbuh (Rivers United). Others are Sunday Faleye (Shooting Stars), Nura Muhammed (El-Kanemi Warriors), Emeka Atuloma (Rivers United), Augustine Oladapo (Enyimba FC) and Ekundayo Ojo (Sunshine Stars).