Former Chelsea star challenges Nigeria to finally live up to the ‘favourites’ tag at AFCON 2023

FOOTBALL Former Chelsea star challenges Nigeria to finally live up to the ‘favourites’ tag at AFCON 2023

Mark Kinyanjui 18:21 - 28.12.2023

Nigeria have massively underwhelmed since winning the trophy in 2013, incluing failing to qualify for back-to-back tournaments in 2015 and 2017.

Former Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi believes Nigeria need to win the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations scheduled to start on January 13 in the Ivory Coast. 

The Super Eagles have been underwhelming in recent tournaments despite boasting some talented players, and have not placed their hands on the title since 2013 in South Africa.

Mikel was speaking to CAF Online when admitting that the three-time African champions will always go into the AFCON as favourites and was hoping that this generation of players could emulate what they did a decade ago. 

“We are always favourites, this is every time we go into the tournament and it’s no different this time. Everyone knows that we are one of the favourites – not the massive favourites, but definitely one of the favourites,” said the former skipper.

Just like any international competition, the Africa Cup of Nations the 2023 tournament will have a number of teams carrying the heavy burden of being tournament favourites.

Drawn against tournament hosts, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, the Super Eagles of Nigeria head to Cote d’Ivoire as one of the teams poised to do well and potentially go all the way.  

A fourth AFCON title for the Super Eagles would be a massive achievement for the African powerhouse who have contributed significantly to the rich history books of the tournament over the years – lifting it in 1980, 1994 and 2013.

They were also runners-up in 1984, 1988, 1990 and 2000.

“To be able to do it again will be a massive achievement for us which I think the country needs right now as well. We need to get our football back where it should be and by winning this tournament, it will take it back to where it should be,” urged Mikel.

Asked whether there are any similarities between the team he played in and the current one, the former Chelsea midfielder conceded to the fact that the game has evolved a great deal since they lifted the title but believed in the potential of the side.

“Football has changed dramatically, and I think this group of players are a good young team and play a different brand of football than we did so let’s hope we can see a good performance from the Nigerian team,” said Mikel.

Nigerian football was made proud just a few weeks ago when star striker Victor Osimhen was voted the best African player in the men’s category at the CAF Awards 2023, with Asisat Oshoala claiming the women's prize for a record-extending sixth time. 

Nigeria kick off their campaign on January 14 against Equatorial Guinea before facing the hosts four days later in what will be a repeat of the 2013 edition quarter-final that saw them overcome Cote d’Ivoire 2-1.

They conclude the Group A campaign with a tie against Guinea-Bissau on January 22.

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