Super Eagles arrive in Cairo, plot Bafana Bafana’s fall
• Rohr, Mikel promise joyous outing for Nigerians on Wednesday
After surviving the round of 16 clash against defending champions, Indomitable Lions of Cameroun, the Super Eagles left their Helnan Palestine Hotel camp in Alexandria for Cairo, the capital city to begin preparations for the quarterfinal showdown against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa.
The match, which holds here in Cairo tomorrow, will be another grudge game between the two countries. The Bafana Bafana nearly prevented the Super Eagles from making it to Egypt 2019 Afcon following a shock 2-0 defeat of the Nigerians in their home ground, Uyo, in the first leg of the qualifiers in 2018. It took extra efforts from the Super Eagles to over come the impact of that defeat, having missed two previous editions of the Afcon in 2015 and 2017.
Tomorrow will determine the true giant between the two sides in Cairo. While the Super Eagles secured their quarterfinal ticket at the expense of Cameroun, Bafana Bafana edged out the host nation, Egypt to create one of the biggest upsets in the competition.The victory over the Pharaohs of Egypt has pitched majority of Egyptian fans against the Bafana Bafana. They want the Super Eagles to avenge that painful defeat for them.
Coach Gernot Rohr and his army know the task ahead of them. Since the team’s arrival in Cairo, players and officials of the Super Eagles have been going about their duty quietly.An official of the team, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday, said the players want to avoid any form of distractions, particularly from members of the press. “They don’t want to attend to anybody now. Their focus is on the match on Wednesday. Maybe, every question concerning the game has to be channeled through the media officer or wait till the pre-match press conference on Tuesday (today).
Meanwhile, Coach Gernot Rohr has said his charges are very much looking forward to tomorrow’s clash, which brings together once more two teams who were involved in the same group in the qualifying campaign.Rohr is not one to forget sharp pains inflicted by lower –ranked teams, and the fury of what happened in Uyo on June 10 2017 – his first loss as Eagles’ manager in a competitive match – could be deduced in the way he spoke on arrival in Cairo, though he insisted that Nigeria is not thinking of revenge but simply a place in the semi finals.
“We are here to win. It is not going to be an easy match, but surely if you have to win the Africa Cup, you will not expect to be faced with easy matches at this stage. We know ourselves from the qualifying campaign and it will be no holds –barred on Wednesday. It is not a matter of revenge; it is about reaching the semi finals.”
Nigeria’s army includes three members of the squad that won the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa in 2013, namely defender Kenneth Omeruo, midfielder and skipper Mikel John Obi and forward and deputy skipper Ahmed Musa. They trained at the Shams Club on Monday evening.
There is also forward Odion Jude Ighalo, who topped the scorers’ chart in the AFCON 2019 qualifying race with seven goals and is joint top scorer in the ongoing finals with three goals, alongside Senegalese Sadio Mane. Indeed, Ighalo’s man-of-the-match performance was the tonic the Eagles needed to overcome the Cup holders on Saturday.There is also goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, who turns out for South African Premier Soccer League side, Kaizer Chiefs. He has not had many opportunities with the senior team but is number one at the ongoing finals.
“It is a big match, no doubt. But we know what we have to do and we will do just that. Beating the defending champions has given us the confidence that we can all the way here,” said skipper Mikel Obi, who has announced that this would be his last AFCON expedition.