Ezeji tips Lobi Stars, Rangers to scale group stage
CAF Champions League gold medallist, Victor Ezeji has tipped Nigeria’s representatives in this year’s continental inter-club competitions, Lobi Stars and Enugu Rangers, to scale the group stage of their respective championships. While Lobi Stars are involved in the CAF Champions League, Enugu Rangers are in the Confederation Cup. Both competitions are in the group stage where only two teams would emerge from each group for the semifinals.
Lobi Stars are on four points from four matches having won one, lost two and drawn one game in the Champions League, while Rangers have four points from a win and a draw in the Confederation Cup.In an interview published by cafonline.com yesterday, Ezeji, who won the CAF Champions League with Enyimba in 2003, said, Lobi Stars have not done badly, adding that the team’s draw with Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco away from home after losing the home leg 0-1 would give them the impetus to perform well in subsequent games.
He said, “If they can get a good result against Mamelodi Sundowns, they would be back on the stream by the time they host ASEC Mimosas in the penultimate match.
“They still have a great possibility of qualifying for the quarterfinals if they can manage their situation very well.”On Enugu Rangers, Ezeji said the Flying Antelopes have the prospect of going all the way, adding, “we have to applaud their efforts especially in a group with former winners’ Etoile du Sahel and CS Sfaxien.
“In their last game away to Sfaxien, they fought back to draw level less than two minutes after Sfaxien had taken the lead; and that shows the sort of confidence they have. Surprisingly, they are the team to beat despite the presence of the two Tunisian top sides.
“Rangers have so many experienced players in their fold as well as experienced management staff. There is nothing better than blending experience and youth. I expect Rangers to progress to the next stage.”
Ezeji believes Nigerian clubs could excel in the continental if they planned well, saying, “Good preparation is a non-negotiable factor for any club to succeed in continental club competitions. It involves so many things including the quality of your playing staff; travelling arrangements; management of the matches and other minute factors. Any team that prepares well would do well and I can say by and large, the two teams representing Nigeria this time, Lobi Stars and Rangers are coping well despite challenges on the domestic front such as fixture congestion.”
He predicts that Nigerian clubs would soon start winning continental championships if they maintained the current trend, adding, “Usually, it is a gradual process like we did with Enyimba in the early 2000s before the club became a very strong force. “In the next two or three years, we should get a club to bring back home a continental club trophy.”