Chinua Achebe once said, “Being a Nigerian is abysmally frustrating and unbelievably exciting.” Every Nigerian football fan can relate to that remark.
Nigeria last won the African tournament in 2013. Since then, they have had some awkward moments. They qualified for the 2014 and 2018 World Cup tournaments, failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 2015 & 2017.
When they did qualify for the 2019 AFCON, they went as far as the semi-finals, losing to eventual champions Algeria.
This year though, Nigerians are excited and confident that the Super Eagles will win the ultimate prize. Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria Olutokun Toriola also rang the echoes of excitement ahead of the team’s opener against Egypt on Tuesday.
He said,“We are backing the boys to make us proud in Cameroon. This team can go all the way and win the trophy. They have a proud nation brimming with passion behind them, and we are also behind them all the way. At the last tournament, we finished third, and we should be pushing on from there. The team is filled with talented boys with an opportunity to make history, and we want them to grab it”
Augustine Eguavoen was appointed as the interim head coach following the dismissal of former coach, Gernot Rohr, a month before the tournament. Eguavoen will only oversee AFCON 2021 as the NFF has now hired Portuguese tactician Jose Peseiro as the new head coach. He will watch the tournament as an observer and will take over after the continental showpiece in Cameroon. Eguavoen led Nigeria as head coach to the 2006 edition where they finished third following a stint as assistant manager.
Despite injuries to Victor Osimhen and Paul Onuachu, the Super Eagles still boast a strong attack that consists of Taiwo Awoniyi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ahmed Musa, Cyriel Dessers. In defence, Leon Balogun, who regularly partners William Troost-Ekong is ruled out, and there could be a return for Kenneth Omeruo. The 56-year-old Eguavoen will have to make good lemonade with his lemons.