Eagles will cage Egypt’s Salah — Okocha
• Players hit Garoua, train at Stade Roumdé Adjia
• Tyrone Ebuehi, Jamilu Collins yet to arrive
Former Super Eagles captain, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, has said that the team to Cameroon 2022 AFCON have enough talents to cage Pharaohs of Egypt in Tuesday’s Group opening match in Garoua.
In particular, Okocha, a member of the Technical Support Group recently put in place by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to help the team’s campaign in Cameroon, said the Eagles have what it takes to stop Liverpool top striker, Mohammed Salah from causing havoc in Tuesday’s match.
“Salah is one of the biggest stars that will be on parade in Cameroon,” Okocha told The Guardian in a chat in Lagos. “But also remember that the Super Eagles is loaded with top stars. We have players who can cage Salah, even, if it means deploying two players to mark him out. The first match matters a lot for Nigeria, and I know that coach Austin Eguavoean will want to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians.”
Meanwhile, the Super Eagles landed in the Cameroonian town of Garoua, the venue of their Group D matches on Wednesday night.
The Eagles had their first training session in Cameroon yesterday evening at the Stade Roumdé Adjia, the venue of their Group D games, including Tuesday’s potentially explosive group opener against seven-time champions Egypt. Nigeria will also confront Sudan on January 15 and Guinea-Bissau on January 19.
The contingent was flown into Garoua aboard an Air Peace jet, arriving at 11.05 pm and the team of 25 players and officials are staying at the Hotel Ribadou.
Two players, Italy based Tyrone Ebuehi and fellow wing-back Jamilu Collins, who plays in Germany, are both expected to join the delegation in Garoua. Forward Odion Ighalo is no longer expected as a result of issues with his Saudi Arabian club.
Nigeria’s harvest of 15 podium appearances in 18 participations in the Africa Cup of Nations is the highest tally in Africa’s flagship football championship. The only times they ended without any form of the medal were in their debut in 1963, in Libya 40 years ago, and in Ghana 14 years ago.
They have won the trophy three times (1980, 1994 and 2013), finished as runners-up four times (1984, 1988, 1990 and 2000) and picked up the bronze medals eight times (1976, 1978, 1992, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2019).
While addressing the players just before the Air Peace jet flew out of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on Wednesday evening, NFF General Secretary, Dr Mohammed Sanusi reiterated his conviction that the 27 players Nigeria would be fielding at the championship are good enough to lift the trophy and earn a fourth triumph for the country.
“I wish you good luck at the tournament on behalf of the Government and people of Nigeria. We know how professional you are and we know you will take the same temperament to the AFCON. We pray against injuries and COVID-related health issues.
“The NFF is ready to give you all the support that you need, on behalf of the Government of Nigeria. The NFF President, Mr Amaju Pinnick, who is also a member of the AFCON Organizing Committee, will join you in Cameroon in two days time. Some of us will also be coming to give you the necessary support and encouragement.”
Skipper Ahmed Musa, who was part of the squad that won the trophy in South Africa nine years ago, said he is confident that the Super Eagles will return to Nigeria with the trophy on February 6.