Super Eagles: Looking ahead at the 2019 AFCON
A month from now, teams from across the continent will compete in Africa’s premier competition, the African Cup of Nations (AFCON). Nigeria is one of the favourites to go far in the tournament.
This year, a total of 24 countries will compete for the big title. Nigeria was drawn in Group B alongside Burundi, Guinea and Madagascar. Their opening match is against Burundi on June 22nd followed by the encounter with Guinea on June 26th. The last game in the group stage will take place on June 30th against Madagascar.
Earlier in the month of May, coach Gernot Rohr has released a provisional list of players who will be joining him in the camp before the competition. Here are the details:
Francis Uzoho (Anorthosis Famagusta, Cyprus); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa) and Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Katsina United)
William Ekong (Udinese, Italy); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino, Italy); Jamilu Collins (SC Paderborn, Germany); Shehu Abdullahi (Bursaspor, Turkey); Chidozie Awaziem (Caykur Rizespor, Turkey); Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes, Spain); Semi Ajayi (Rotherham United, England) and Leon Balogun (Brighton, England)
John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel); John Obi Mikel (Middlesbrough, England); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England) and Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke, England)
Samuel Kalu (Bordeaux, France); Ahmed Musa (Al Nassar FC, Saudi Arabia); Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, England); Victor Osimhen (Charleroi, Belgium); Moses Simon (Levante, Spain); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray, Turkey); Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua, China); Paul Onuachu (FC Midtjyland, Denmark); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England) and Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal, Spain)
The following players have been put on stand by:
Valentine Ozornwafor (Enyimba); Theophilus Afelokhai (Enyimba); Bryan Idowu (Lokomotiv Moscow, Russia); Ikouwem Utin (Enyimba); Mikel Agu (Vitoria Setubal, Portugal) and Junior Ajayi (Al Ahly, Egypt)
As you can see, only one home-based player, the goalkeeper Ezenwa will be called up to the training camp. Most of the players play for English teams, a total of ten. The rest come from European teams and a few from China and the Saudi Arabia.
The biggest news is that John Obi Mikel has decided to come back to play for the Super Eagles. He’s been absent since the 2018 World Cup in Russia and wasn’t with the team through the AFCON qualifying stage. His experience will help the otherwise young team. It is not yet known whether Ahmed Musa will have to give back the captaincy to the long-standing Eagles skipper.
Coach Rohr has also managed to pry Samuel Chukwueze from the Flying Eagles squad and give him a chance with the senior squad.
Some players have been given the last chance to impress the coach. Kelechi Iheanacho has spent most of the season for Leicester on the bench. Leon Balogun has rarely been used by Brighton and was out through injury towards the end of the season.
The currently first-choice goalkeeper Francis Uzoho will have a point to prove after a few mistakes in the run-up to this year’s AFCON.
The final player roster for the competition will be released in the second week of June. Super Eagles will spend a week from June 2nd till June 9th training in Asaba before Coach Rohr makes up his mind.
To see what the odds are for Nigeria in the 2019 AFCON, visit Supabets.