Afcon 2023 Qualifiers: Easy ride or not for Nigeria’s Super Eagles?

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The Super Eagles of Nigeria began the year 2022 with high hopes to win the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but these two hopes were dashed as they came crashing like a pack of cards.

The Super Eagles crashed out in the round of 16 at the AFCON 2021 finals in Cameroon after losing to the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia, while they were knocked out of the World cup qualifiers by Ghana through away goals.

Putting that behind and forging ahead with preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations 2023 qualifiers which begin in May ahead of the Finals in Ivory Coast next year, the Super Eagles of Nigeria are again in the eyes of the world as sports enthusiasts expect them to bounce back.

Nigeria is drawn in Group A alongside Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and either Sao Tome and Principe or Mauritius in the 2023 Afcon qualifiers.

In place of FIFA ranking, while Nigeria is ranked third best in Africa and 30th in the world, Siera Leone is 108 globally, Guinea-Bissau 115 and Sao Tome and Principle 181.

Based on the rankings of these teams and their previous outings, many have come to describe the group as the “easy” group hence tipping the Super Eagles with the highest chances of qualifying from the group.

It is expected that the Super Eagles will take the opportunity, put in their best and come out in flying colours to make the nation proud.

Among those rooting for the Eagles from the so-called “easy” group is Ivory Coast Legend Solomon Kalou, who has tipped Nigeria to qualify for the Nations Cup.

Kalou said, “I think it’s a good group for the Super Eagles; I think Nigeria is a team that will always qualify.”

“They will be the group’s favourites while the second place is open for the other three teams.”

However, former Nigerian striker, Dele Olorundare, does not see it that way; for him, the Super Eagles need to work very hard to book a slot at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

He warned the team against complacency to avoid another international heartbreak.

“On paper, the draw seems like an easy one for Nigeria, but the truth is that qualification will not come easy – we have to work hard for it,” Olorundare said.

He said, “We have played Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau in recent times. They know us so well, and they will be coming to hurt us.

“Sao Tome and Principe are dark horses, but this is football, and we must watch out for them because they can be a surprise package.

“I am a Nigerian, and I will be proud to see us play in Cote d’Ivoire 2023, but football is no longer about wishful thinking. Our administrators and players must show that we merit to be there.”

Super Eagles legend Tijani Babangida has also advised the Super Eagles to focus more on defeating the three countries in their group.

Babangida said for them to overcome, they must show desire and commitment.

“I must confess that African football has grown beyond those days when you can regard a team minnows. The Super Eagles must do the needful to qualify for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

“No team will be afraid to face the Super Eagles regardless of the array of stars we parade at our disposal. But then, the team can restore that fear factor if they impose their authority in games and finish up games as quickly as possible.

“The truth is that Sao Tome, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau will not be an easy ride for the Super Eagles.”

Nigerians have also taken to social media to express their divergent views on the Super Eagles and the 2023 qualifiers.

While some of them believe the qualifiers will give the Nigerian team the opportunity for a fresh start given their opponent’s records, others think that the team always has a way of dashing hopes and, as such, are not bothered.

With the first leg of the qualifiers scheduled to begin in May as Nigeria host Sierra Leone, the pressure is on the Super Eagles to once again prove their worth.

To prove their worth, the Eagles need to re-strategize and put their house to concentrate fully and have successful outings in their qualifying matches to get one of the two tickets from the group.

As to answering the question of whether the qualifiers will be an easy ride or not for the Super Eagles, all we can do is wait as only time will tell.

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