Photo credit: Punch NG
Nigeria qualified for the African Cup of Nations the second time in succession, after previously failing to qualify for two successive African Cup of Nations; Nigerian football was in turmoil at that period. Thanks to a turn in events, recent results suggest that the Super Eagles are back to qualifying for tournaments. The bugging question after the Super Eagles qualified with a game in hand is: can they pull off another AFCON title their fourth overall and first after seven years?
In the last edition of the African Cup of Nations, the Super Eagles went as far as the semi-finals, till they fell to the eventual winners, Algeria, losing 2 goals to 1. They finished third place after beating Tunisia 1 goal to 0. The match against Algeria was pulsating, but the Super Eagles were still undone by hardworking Algeria; the third place was compensation to them.
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Nigeria last won the African Cup of Nations title in 2013. Many people were not expecting Nigeria to win the title in 2013. The Nigerian team were not even favourite for the title. How they went on to win is still a surprise to many, given that Nigeria did not even qualify for the last edition of the tournament. Nigeria narrowly defeated Burkina Faso 1 goal to 0, courtesy of a Sunday Mba’s goal. It was a fairy-tale ride for both Nigeria and Burkina Faso. Nigeria won the 2013 title against all odds, but can they do it again at the 2022 AFCON?
Many teams, including Nigeria, have already booked their place at the 2022 AFCON. Algeria, Cameroun, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Ghana, Comoros, Gambia, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Tunisia, Morocco, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali have already qualified for the competition, with a game in hand. 7 other teams are going to join them in next year’s edition of the competition. The teams that have already qualified are very strong teams.
Algeria, the current holders of the AFCON title, will be looking to defend their title. The Nigerian team, if they are looking to win next year’s AFCON, must know that the Algeria team are still a very strong and formidable team. They qualified for the 2022 African Cup of Nations with two games in hand. The Algerian team qualified as Group G winners, and they are currently the 3rd best team in Africa; they are going to be a formidable opposition and a threat to Nigeria’s claim to the title.
Senegal is another very strong team. They are currently the best team in Africa, according to the FIFA rankings. They qualified after two games, with two games to spare, and they also qualified as their group’s winner. They will be looking to brush off the disappointment of losing the finals of the last African Cup of Nations to Algeria. They lost narrowly; no goal to the 1 scored by the winners, Algeria. Senegal, led by Mane, will be looking to win their first African Cup of Nations title. Their drive and their hunger to win will make them a very formidable opponent.
Egypt, 7-time winners of the African Cup of Nations title, Ghana, and Cameroon are other threats to Nigeria’s claim for the title. They are very strong and physical sides, and they are also very hungry for the title. Other teams can also pose a threat to Nigeria’s claim for the title.
Nigeria has to show more hunger than the rest of the teams. They also have to play far better than how they played the AFCON qualifiers. Their defence and attack have to be on point; conceding silly goals like the ones they conceded during their match against Sierra Leone should be nonexistent on their to-do list. If they improve their display, defence and attack, and work as a team, they can win their 4th African Cup of Nations title.