Just like any international competition, the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Cote d’Ivoire 2023 will have a number of teams carrying the heavy burden of being tournament favourites.
Drawn against tournament hosts, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, the Super Eagles of Nigeria head to Cote d’Ivoire as one of the teams that are poised to do well and potentially go all the way.
This is according to their former skipper, John Obi Mikel who lifted the title 10 years ago to end a 19-year drought for the Super Eagles when they edged Burkina Faso 1-0 at Soccer City in Johannesburg back in 2013.
Mikel was speaking to CAFOnline when admitting that the three-time champions will always go into the AFCON as favourites and was hoping that this generation of players could emulate what they did a decade ago.
“We are always favourites, this is every time we go into the tournament and it’s no different this time. Everyone knows that we are one of the favourites – not the massive favourite but definitely one of the favourites”, said the former skipper.
Nigerian football was made proud just a few weeks ago when star player, Victor Osimhen was voted the best African player in the men’s category at the CAF Awards 2023, which was coupled by Asisat Oshoala replicating this in the women’s category.
A fourth AFCON title for the Super Eagles would be a massive achievement for the African powerhouse who have contributed significantly to the rich history books of the tournament over the years – lifting it in 1980, 1994 and 2013.
They were also runners-up in 1984, 1988, 1990 and 2000.
“To be able to do it again will be a massive achievement for us which I think the country needs right now as well. We need to get our football back where it should be and by winning this tournament, it will take it back to where it should be”, urged Mikel.
Asked on whether there were any similarities that he can draw inspiration from in the two generations, the former Chelsea midfielder conceded to the fact that the game has evolved a great deal since they lifted the title but believed in the potential of the side.
“Football has changed dramatically, and I think this group of players are a good young team and play a different brand of football than we did so let’s hope we can see a good performance from the Nigerian team”, he said.
Nigeria kick off their campaign on 14 January against Equatorial Guinea before facing the hosts four days later in what will be a repeat of the 2013 edition quarter-final that saw them overcome Cote d’Ivoire 2-1.
They conclude the Group A campaign with a tie against Guinea-Bissau on 22 January.
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