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Our experience in Russia 2018 will help us at AFCON, says Ighalo

By Samuel Ifetoye, with agency report
24 December 2018   |   4:20 am
Super Eagles striker, Odion Jude Ighalo has expressed optimism that Nigeria can make a meaningful impact at next year Africa Cup...

[FILES] Nigerian players celebrate a goal during the African Cup of Nations qualification match between Nigeria and Libya in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State in southern Nigeria, on October 13, 2018. – Nigeria beat Libya 4-0 with Odion Ighalo grabbing a hat-trick for the Super Eagles to get their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign firmly back on track in Uyo, southern Nigeria. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Super Eagles striker, Odion Jude Ighalo has expressed optimism that Nigeria can make a meaningful impact at next year Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) scheduled to hold in June.

Ighalo’s six goals helped the Eagles qualified for the AFCON from Group E with a match in hand against Seychelles. The game, which is slated to hold on March 22nd next year, will serve as part of the preparation for the team for the finals in 2019.

However, the continent’s football governing body, the CAF is set to name a new host nation on January 9, 2019 after stripping the hosting right from Cameroon. But Ighalo says regardless of where the finals are held, that the Eagles would be ready to contest strongly for the title.

“Whether the championship is held in Egypt or South Africa, we will be ready. We have the advantage of having been together for sometime now, with the bulk of the team having played at the World Cup. Qualifying for the AFCON has also made us believe very much in our ability and of course, the Nigerian spirit is always there to propel us in difficult times.

“We are all aware of what Nigerians expect from us. We will prepare hard and strive to deliver,” Ighalo said as he savoured the occasion when the Nigeria Football Federation celebrated its sponsors and partners in Lagos on Thursday night.

President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick, used the occasion to pinpoint Ighalo as the very definition of patience, perseverance and fortitude, whose experience is worthy of study by the average Nigerian youth seeking success but confronted with challenges.

“Ighalo has become the metaphor for success on the back of perseverance, continued improvement and patience. For several months he was looking to score for the national team but it did not happen. He never gave up, and the coaches kept their belief in him. Then, in only three days, he scored five goals to become the leading scorer in the 2019 AFCON qualification series. There is nothing drive and doggedness cannot achieve.”