By Yemi Babalola Lagos, Nigeria
The Super Eagles of Nigeria are set to play their first match in Group E where she finds herself starting the campaign for the next African Cup of Nations (AFCON) ticket against South Africa. The game would be played at the Godswill Akpabio international stadium also known as the ‘Nest of Champions’, which for a while now has been a home of sort for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. The match would air 5pm Nigerian time.
Knowing fully well that the Super Eagles of Nigeria has been unable to participate at the last two editions of the African Cup of Nations held in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon respectively. The Eagles could not participate because the team did not qualify; this time around, the team is looking robust and have another chance at redeeming themselves before the football loving fans of Nigeria.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles need to stand up and be counted as they slug it out with South Africa come Saturday, knowing that technical adviser Gernot Rohr, who is yet to lose a match since he began his Super Eagles management, would oversee this encounter. Nigerians would be hoping Rohr’s good luck with the team would continue and with the introduction of youngsters like Victor Osimhen, Kayode Olanrewaju, Tyrone Ebuehi, Maroof Youssef, Henry Onyekuru bringing in their youthful energy. As well as the other relatively newer crop of Eagles like Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi, Alhassan Ibrahim matching up their energy with the regulars as interim captain Ogenyi Onazi, Elderson Echiejile, John Ogu, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Ahmed Musa, Oghenekaro Etebo amongst others.
One thing is certain irrespective of the outcome, looking at the squad the Super Eagles have, the nation has a bright future knowing that the average age of the players been discovered now is quite young for football.
Bafana Bafana of South Africa have arrived into the country on Wednesday 7 June 2017 and have been breathing fire and brimstones before arrival about how they would dissimulate the Super Eagles. The South Africans have a new manager in Stuart Baxter, though not a stranger to the squad as the last time South Africa stopped Nigeria from qualifying for the 2015 African cup of nations, with Nigeria requiring maximum points to qualify for the 2015 AFCON finals, he was the manager in charge.
Another notable member of that south African squad was Tokelo Rantie who was responsible for causing nightmares for many Nigerians as his two goals at the ‘Nest of Champions’ in 2014 prevented the Super Eagles from qualifying for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Tokelo alongside his teammates are once again coming to his old stomping ground and would be hoping to get one over the Super Eagles.
Both managers are foreigners with Gernot Rohr being Franco-German and Stuart Baxter a Briton, and are well experienced managing African sides, and this match would be a test of which of them would proof technically and tactically smarter.
Looking at the pool of players available, one thing Bafana Bafana have going for them is the fact that most of their players play their club football at home in their domestic league and can be said to be quite familiar with each other. Notwithstanding most of the Nigerian boys play in top league sides across Europe and professionally, which in other to create the synergy amongst the different talents, Gernot Rohr opened camp earlier and in fact invited the players in batches to see those he can marry into the existing squad.
One prayer would be said in the heart of Nigerians come 5pm on Saturday, and that would be the hashtag the Nigerian football federation has said would be the theme for the day, which is soar eagles soar, and hopefully, the Super Eagles of Nigeria would not disappoint the nation.