Super Eagles players and officials are brimming in confidence that Nigeria will be crowned kings of Africa after Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations final clash against host Ivory Coast, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.
Both teams meet for the second time at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan 24 days after the Ivorians suffered a first-ever home defeat by Nigeria when they won 1-0 in the group stage.
The Eagles are aiming for a fourth AFCON crown in Abidjan while the Ivorians are looking to add to their triumphs in 1992 and 2015.
Jose Peseiro’s side cruised through the group stages with seven points amid a run of four straight clean sheets, defeating Cameroon, Angola and South Africa in the knockout stages.
Speaking ahead of the final on Saturday, Pereiro revealed that he is desperate to win the AFCON title in his first attempt.
“The atmosphere will be fantastic and my players and staff all prefer to play in a full stadium, despite the level of noise,” Pereiro said.
“This is my first AFCON. Ivory Coast were favourites ahead of this tournament, but we want to win this Nations Cup. My only plan is to beat Ivory Coast and win this trophy for the people of Nigeria with the Nigerian team tomorrow (today).
“It is very important to find a balance. We have a great squad of players that really want to win this for Nigeria. Some are new-comers to the squad but have played in other competitions. Football brings a long of emotion, more than any sport and this is important for Nigeria.”
Eagles captain, Ahmed Musa who won the AFCON on his debut appearance at the 2013 edition in South Africa hopes to make history becoming the first player alongside defender Kenneth Omeruo to win the AFCON crown twice.
“Winning the AFCON and touching the trophy is an unforgettable experience,” Musa said.
“Omeruo and myself experienced that when we won in South Africa. But I want another one and he also wants another one. The good feeling and experience must be double double.”
Omeruo, also corroborated Musa’s views, “We want that special feeling again – the feeling of being a champion of Africa. We have not gone this far to throw it away now. We have thrown everything into the six matches we have played here. We will give more than 100 per cent against the Ivorians on Sunday (today).”
On-field captain, William Troost-Ekong says he expects Sunday’s final between the Eagles and the Elephants to be a classic.
“It will not be a tea party, and we won’t be going out there with a tea cup. We will work hard and fight hard for the trophy.”
CAF African Player of The Year, Victor Osimhen, also assured Nigerians that the Eagles are fully focused on winning the title in Ivory Coast.
“We are not thinking of that now, we are focused on the final… we are focused. We stay focused until we have won (the trophy),” he said.
Osimhen who has converted just one of his 24 chances, albeit while having had two goals ruled out by VAR and another disallowed for handball earned plaudits for his tireless running and pressing for the team.
“He doesn’t play like a star, but fights for the team,” Peseiro added.
“He knows he’s an important player and because of that, he suffers for the team – getting kicked around – but he helps us as much as the team helps him. It’s a collective effort and we fight together.”
With Osimhen failing to add to his goal in Nigeria’s opener, Atalanta forward Ademola Lookman is Nigeria’s top scorer with three goals, while Troost-Ekong, having netted two high-pressure penalties, is the only other Nigerian to have scored (an own goal aside).
Meanwhile, former players of the Eagles have backed the team to win the final on Sunday.
According to former Eagles striker Brown Ideye, the Eagles has proved all their doubters wrong with their displays.
“I never believed in this team,” Ideye, an AFCON winner in 2013 told BBC.
“Their form before the tournament and injuries to key players gave no one any hope but they’ve proved a lot of us wrong by reaching the final. I’m really proud of them and I’m backing them to beat Ivory Coast again.”
Former Eagles forward, Osaze Odemwinge, who starred at four AFCON tournaments in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 also believes that the Eagles has an advantage over their host in terms of talent.
“Hopefully, history repeats itself and we beat them again,” Osaze told Channels TV in an interview monitored by our correspondent.
“We have the edge emotionally and mentally. We have the talents and we have a team better than them. If we match them physically, they cannot match us for skill and that would be my hope that all these skills you know come out in the game because we want to unlock their defence.”
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